Free State High’s girls tennis players received some surprising news from coach Oather Strawderman at Wednesday’s practice.
It took a few days, but the Firebirds were awarded second place at their Class 6A regional tournament.
An administrative oversight Saturday at the regional hosted by Lawrence High led to Shawnee Mission Northwest incorrectly being named the tournament’s second-place team. The event’s organizers originally announced SMNW won a tiebreaker for second place with Free State by having a higher overall winning percentage in its games at the state-qualifying tournament.
LHS athletic director Bill DeWitt said he became aware of the snafu Tuesday. The results from one SMNW match — a loss — inadvertently were left out of the winning-percentage equation. DeWitt and Lawrence coach Chris Marshall reviewed the results and realized the Firebirds actually had the better winning percentage and should have earned second place (regional champion Olathe East was unaffected).
Double-checking the results proved that the Firebirds won 104 of their 194 games, giving them a .536 winning percentage. SMNW won 126 of 239 (.5272).
Strawderman said the players deserved the distinction of runner-up and it reflected the fact that singles senior Alexis Czapinski, a regional champion, and Free State’s doubles teams of Alyssa Raye and Rachel Walters, and Caitlin Dodd and Taylor Hawkins, all advanced out of the regional.
“It was very exciting,” Raye said of the ruling. “I’m excited we’re getting a plaque.”
Hawkins, too, said the memento will mean a lot to the players, and it made the junior feel a little better about her and Dodd’s loss in the fifth-place match. Had they won, FSHS would not only have beat out SMNW for second, but also O-East.
“I was really bummed,” Hawkins said of the moments following the Saturday loss.
Of Free State’s latest regional runner-up plaque, the program’s fourth, Strawderman said: “It should also give us a little positive energy going into state this weekend.”
The Firebirds won regional titles in 2001 and 2002, and finished as the state runner-up in 1999, 2001 and 2002.
The team leaves today for the 6A state tournament, which begins Friday morning at Maize South High’s district facility. Of Free State’s players, only Czapinski has state experience.
“We just want to go in positive,” Raye said. “We’re working really hard to prepare.”
Hawkins said their coach had warned them of the atmosphere.
“There’s so many more people there,” the junior said of state. “We’re not used to lots of people actually coming to watch us play.”