Gassed into the early hours of the night at Forest Park, Gracen Friess of Parsons forged her second straight regional singles title by beating Independence’s Abby Veile in a three-set marathon that lasted four hours.
Friess won the match 7-5 (5), 1-6, 6-4 over Veile to retain her crown at Saturday’s KSHSAA 4A Regional Tournament.
It took nearly four hours for Parsons' Gracen Friess to beat Independence's Abby Veile in three sets to win her second straight @KSHSAA 4A Tennis Regional title. Here is the final point of the decisive third set. pic.twitter.com/fMH7lybZti— Sean Frye (@SeanEFrye) October 11, 2020
“Gracen will do anything it takes to win, and she did just that in the championship match,” Parsons head coach Tyler Beardmore said. “She didn't play the best tennis she's ever played in that match, but she competed the entire four hours and that's all you can ever ask for. This was her third consecutive regional championship match and she won it last year, so I think at times she was feeling some pressure to defend her title in front of a home crowd. But in the third set she was zoned in on her game and was able to pull through and get the win.”
After the match, her face reddened and glistening, Friess was simply elated to have survived.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Friess said. “I’m just high on life. I’ve gone through that before — that four-hour match and didn’t get a winning outcome. Now I know how it feels to be on the winning side.”
As a team, Parsons finished second in the region under Beardmore, who’s in his first year as head coach after taking over for the legendary Jane Posch.
“It's nice to bring yet another tennis plaque into our school,” Beardmore said. “Going into this season, I didn't know what to expect with having a couple of new girls and the uncertainty of our lineup, but they've all worked hard all season and to come out of regionals as runners-up is a great accomplishment.”
Parsons qualified Friess as well as the doubles team of Jaidyn Shultz and Lauren Farris to the KSHSAA 4A State Tournament in Topeka.
Farris and Shultz finished third in the doubles division, beating Fort Scott in the third-place match. That match also went three sets and ended just minutes before the singles championship.
“Jaidyn and Lauren had a good day,” Beardmore said. “They started out slow in their second match, but played some great tennis in the last two sets of that match. Getting the win over a solid Fort Scott team was a great way to end the day.”
Independence won first place as a team at regionals despite missing two seniors from the lineup. Independence is in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak — football, volleyball and soccer were all suspended at the school. The two missing seniors were quarantined.
“Just thinking about it gets me emotional,” Independence head coach Sam Carnes said. “Ask my wife, it’s not been fun at my house. It’s been stressful. I love these girls to death. The fact that two seniors had to miss this moment is heartbreaking. But we’ve always had the next-man-up mentality. We’ve always trusted our ladies. Parsons, Fort Scott and Chanute really pushed us. I’m very proud.”
Parsons’ other singles competitor, freshman Sydney Schibi, came one win away from qualifying for state as she fell to Veile in the quarterfinals.
“I thought Sydney played really well,” Beardmore said. “To be within one match of qualifying for state not only as a freshman, but it being her first year ever playing tennis, I think that says a lot about her work ethic and the hours she put in outside of practice to get better.”
The other Parsons doubles team of Jazzy Palmer and Cait Chalker also came one victory away from qualifying for state.
“Jazzy and Cait have shown so much improvement over the last two weeks,” Beardmore said. “Getting a fourth place finish last weekend (at league), coming up one match short of qualifying for state this weekend and giving the top seed a tough match shows how much they have improved and with some hard work in the offseason, they'll have great results next year.”
The KSHSAA 4A State Tournament will be held at the Kossover Tennis Center in Topeka starting on Friday.
For Shultz and Farris, this will be their second straight trip together to state.
“They should be more comfortable at this years tournament than they were last year,” Beardmore said. “It would be a great accomplishment for them to come home with a medal.”
As for Friess, this will be her second straight state tournament as a top seed with a regional title to her resume. Last year, Friess finished 11th and is aiming for a top-eight finish in her final tournament.
“Coming into the season, it was a goal for Gracen to place in the top eight at state,” Beardmore said. “It will be a very competitive singles field this year, but with the work that Gracen has put in, we're looking to reach that goal and hopefully more.”
KSHSAA 4A REGIONAL TOURNAMENT
Friess (Parsons) - bye
Zwahlen (Labette County) def. Emmerson (Fort Scott) 6-2, 6-0
Maxton (Chanute) def. Tidd (Iola) 6-0, 6-0
Kippenberger (Independence) def. Smith (Coffeyville) 6-0, 6-0
Babcock (Chanute) - bye
Heckman (Fort Scott) def. Cowles (Coffeyville) 6-0, 6-0
Schibi (Parsons) def. Johnson (Labette County) 6-0, 6-2
Veile (Independence) - bye
Friess def. Zwahlen 6-0, 6-0
Maxton def. Kippenberger 6-4, 6-4
Babcock def. Heckman 4-6, 6-0 (1)
Veile def. Schibi 6-1, 6-1
Friess def. Maxton 6-1, 6-2
Veile def. Babcock 6-1, 1-6, 6-1
Babcock def. Maxton 6-1, 6-2
Friess def. Veile 7-5 (5), 1-6, 6-4
Beth/Daly (Fort Scott) - bye
Chalker/Palmer (Parsons) def. Palet/Aguilar (Chanute) 6-2, 2-6 (5)
Brown/Sorrell (Labette County) def. Coltrane/Fawson (Iola) 6-1, 6-0
Marrison/Smith (Independence) def. Samples/Cowles (Coffeyville) 6-0, 6-0
Dodson/Gregory (Independence) def. Hayden/Thompson (Coffeyville) 6-0, 6-0
Bogle/Thompson (Chanute) def. Shelby/Shelby (Iola) 6-2, 6-4
Krokroskia/Majors (Fort Scott) def. Hayward/Bradfield (Labette County) 6-3, 6-2
Shultz/Farris (Parsons) - bye
Beth/Daly def. Chalker/Palmer 6-3, 6-3
Morrison/Smith def. Brown/Sorrell 6-0, 6-4
Dodson/Gregrory def. Bogle/Thompson 6-4, 6-3
Shultz/Farris def. Krokroskia/Majors 6-2, 6-1
Morrison/Smith def. Beth/Daly 7-6 (7), 2-6, 6-3
Dodson/Gregory def. Shultz/Farris 6-0, 2-6, 6-4
Shultz/Farris def. Beth/Daly 7-6 (6), 6-7 (4), 6-3
Dodson/Gregory def. Morrison/Smith 6-5, 6-3