City squads hopeful

Lawrence High’s tennis team chooses not to set any goals this weekend. Free State may choose to go big.

Two Lions and three Firebirds depart today for Emporia High School to take part in the Class 6A girls state tennis tournament, which starts at 12:30 p.m. today and runs until Saturday.

With No. 1 seeds in both singles and doubles, a state title for Free State may not be far-fetched. Not that LHS’s tandem of Sara and Abby Olson, the No. 2 seed, should be counted out.

“We avoid setting goals, because we really don’t know who we’re going to play,” LHS coach Dick Wedel said. “They’re very calm. The twins are not real emotional players and all pumped up like some kids are. They go out there and play to win.”

As for Free State, along with sensational senior Emily Wang, 28-2 in 2002, the Firebirds have an equally impressive doubles team of Emily Loewen and Lacey Luina, 27-2 this season.

Each of Free State’s No. 1 seeds will play a No. 4 seed outside of their region in the first round. Meanwhile, LHS’s Olson combo will play a No. 3 seed doubles team from either Hutchinson, Blue Valley Northwest or Washburn Rural.

The Olson twins have already beaten the Blue Valley Northwest and Washburn Rural foes earlier this season, giving them a much-needed confidence boost heading into today’s first-round matches.

“It helps them see that they belong at state,” Wedel said. “It’s real important for any athlete to feel that they can at least compete in the level that they’re in.”

Loewen and Luina will match up with a No. 4 seed in the first round from Maize, Blue Valley West, or Emporia. After that, nobody knows.

Same with Wang, who will match up with a No. 4 seed from either Washburn Rural, Shawnee Mission East or Garden City. The defending state champ wants nothing less than a similar result this season.

She can expect a target on her back this go-around, and that’s OK, says Free State coach Jon Renberger.

“If she was afraid of people gunning for her and afraid of failure, she’d have taken her title and been done with it,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest test for all five city competitors is the mystery surrounding their upcoming opponents.

“I think we feel confident enough about the first round,” Wedel said. “It gets tricky after that. There are so many possibilities when you lay out the draw. They’ll just go out there and win as long as they can.”