De Soto High senior Hana Lindbloom didn't score that elusive first-place medal, but she walked off the court a winner.
Lindbloom and partner Suzie Gulley finished their season by earning a fifth-place medal at the state tennis meet last Saturday in Lawrence. On Friday, the duo won its opening match but fell in three sets in the quarterfinals to Colby, the No. 1 seed and eventual state champion.
On Saturday, Gulley and Lindbloom won three straight matches to finish fifth.
"We took the top seed to three sets, and the first- and second-place match are two teams that we played virtually neck-and-neck," De Soto tennis coach Michael Sullivan said. "So I think even though we placed fifth, I think it's safe to say that we're a top-3 team."
Lindbloom reached the state tourney in doubles play the previous three years, finishing third once and second twice. For Gulley, it was her second trip to state and her first time winning a medal.
"It's not what we wanted," Lindbloom said of the fifth-place finish. "But for me, I started my career on a win at state and now I finish on a win. And, you know, sometimes that's better than losing your last high school match."
In the consolation semifinals against Wellington, the De Soto girls trailed, 9-2, but battled back and won seven straight matches to earn the victory.
"Sometimes it just doesn't hit us until we're down by so much that we kind of snap back into it," Lindbloom said. "But that was an intense match."
As a team, the Wildcats finished seventh overall at state, making it the fifth consecutive year the school had finished the season in the top 10. Lindbloom finishes her career with an overall individual record of 136-18.
"It's unfortunate that they couldn't necessarily capture that title but it's still nice to see," Sullivan said. "Hana's a four-year player who has meant the world to this program and she's gong to be missed greatly.
"Those are shoes you really don't fill. So I hope some of our younger kids will see the success we've had and kind of take that role."
Lindbloom said that even though she would have liked to win it all, she was proud of her rare accomplishment of making it to state during all four years of her career.
"Just coming to state as a freshman, it was so different than coming now," she said. "When you're walking around here as a freshman, you don't really know what's going on. But each year the competition has gotten better."
With her high school career now over, Lindbloom said she was hoping to play tennis in college. Among her top choices was Baker University, where her old doubles partner is playing.
Lindbloom and Kara Doherty were the squad's only seniors this year. Gulley, a junior, will be the Wildcats' top returner in 2009, and could move back to singles competition, where she had played until this season.
"That's very exciting," Sullivan said of Gulley coming back next year. "Now I think she's got a taste of it. The key is for her to get back in that mode and start taking it really serious and get back in tournament mode over the summer to prepare her for that tough competition.
"If she does that, I think she can do really well here on the singles side."