Free State girls tennis pushes past LHS in dual

Free State's Keegan VanPelt returns a ball during a dual at LHS on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018.

Free State and Lawrence High girls tennis squared off one last time before the postseason in a dual Tuesday at LHS.

Both the Firebirds and Lions understood the importance of going into the Sunflower League tournament on a strong note. Yet, Tuesday’s meet was unique, as players got the opportunity to play both doubles and singles.

“It’s kind of fun to take a break in the season before we get to crunch time,” LHS head coach Chris Marshall said. “Free State is one of the top teams in the area, but I thought we competed and played hard. Overall, I was pretty pleased with the effort.”

Free State ultimately cruised to a win over Lawrence. The Firebirds won all nine varsity matches in the battle between two city programs.

“We came out strong and they did what we need to do to get the victory,” FSHS coach Aaron Clark said. “I think these meets can be fun, because they get to do something that they generally don’t.”

But several athletes showed flashes of their potential during the the dual, even if they were in unfamiliar situations.

Lawrence High sophomore Bella Kirkwood serves during a dual at LHS on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018.

Sophomore Bella Kirkwood hadn’t played doubles since the eighth grade before last week’s dual against Bonner Springs. In both duals, Kirkwood teamed up with Caitlynn Kliem as the top doubles tandem.

Kirkwood, who will slide back into her No. 1 singles spot for the league tournament on Thursday, feels like she is hitting her stride at the right time.

“I’ve definitely had some ups and downs,” Kirkwood said. “Overall, I have played really well. I have gotten better since last year.”

Kliem, meanwhile, has played with a few different partners throughout the year at the top of the doubles ladder for LHS.

Still, Kliem demonstrated the ability to compete on the singles side with a back-and-forth match against Free State’s Kate Piper. Kliem lost to Piper, but each set was ultimately competitive between a pair of doubles players.

“I’m proud of myself for the amount of points that went to deuce and (advantage),” Kliem said. “I think there were some games that I could have played better, though.”

For Free State, Keegan VanPelt continued her strong season with another flawless performance.

VanPelt and Piper defeated Kliem and Kirkwood (8-0) in the top doubles match. VanPelt then knocked off Kirkwood (8-0) in the top singles match. VanPelt is playing exceptionally well at the right time, as she notched fifth in a tough Plaza tournament just last week.

In addition, Gabby Gorman, Anna Peard, Andie Veeder and Emma Johnson each claimed a pair of victories for the Firebirds.

“We are really deep this year,” Clark said. “I feel like our team is pretty strong with league being here in a couple days.”

Free State and LHS will compete in the Sunflower League tournament at 9 a.m. Thursday at College Boulevard Activity Center.

Results from LHS dual

No. 1 singles: Keegan VanPelt defeats Bella Kirkwood, 8-0

No. 2 singles: Kate Piper defeats Caitynn Kliem, 8-0

No. 3 singles: Gabby Gorman defeats Lilli Derby, 8-0

No. 4 singles: Anna Peard defeats Laura Teska, 8-0

No. 5 singles: Andie Veeder defeats Lana Chieu, 8-4

No. 6 singles: Emma Johnson defeats Katie Logan, 8-3

No. 1 doubles: Piper/VanPelt defeats Kirkwood/Kliem, 8-0

No. 2 doubles: Gorman/Peard defeats Teska/Chieu, 8-2

No. 3 doubles: Veeder/Johnson defeats Karenna Peterson/Morgan Marsh, 8-1

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