The Parsons Vikings girls tennis team opened the 2019 campaign with a third place finish at its season-opening home tournament on Thursday.

“We’ve got two players that are totally brand new,” Parsons head coach Jane Posch said. “I was counting on getting third, that’s what I thought we were capable of. I was proud of how they all played.” 

Independence won the tournament with 13 total points. Pittsburg took second with 12 points, followed by Parsons with nine. Fort Scott finished fourth with six points, while Coffeyville was fifth with zero wins. 

Gracen Friess had the best showing for Parsons, sweeping the No. 1 singles bracket. Friess beat Makayla Ross of Coffeyville 8-0, Lexi Bailey of Fort Scott 8-3, Emily McGown of Pittsburg 8-0 and Piper Marquez of Independence 8-2.

Friess medaled at the 4A state tournament last year and Posch sees the lone junior on the roster capable of finishing even higher this year.

“Gracen was just impressive,” Posch said. “She’s really improved a lot and has a lot of athletic ability. She’s just getting started. We haven’t seen what she’s going to bring to the table by the end of the year.” 

Caitlin Chalker won one match and lost three in her debut in the No. 2 singles bracket for Parsons. Chalker’s lone win came against Hannah Samples of Coffeyville by a score of 8-2. Chalker then lost to Rui He of Fort Scott 8-3, Marci Brown of Pittsburg 8-0 and Jenna Eytcheson of Independence 8-2.

“Caitlin’s got a lot of athletic ability and is smart,” Posch said. “She’s only been playing two weeks, so I told her not to worry about winning or losing. She’s getting better because she’s playing people that are better. She needs to learn how to take that all in and make it work for her.” 

As for the No. 1 doubles pairing of Jaidyn Shultz and Lauren Farris, the duo took second place for the Vikings. The two defeated Kierstyn Cowles and Juana Andres of Coffeyville 8-0, Emma Daly and Addie Smith of Fort Scott 8-3 and Carmen Kant and Emma Lawson of Pittsburg 8-4. Shultz and Farris ended the night with an 8-4 loss to Tia Gregory and Kayden King of Independence.

“They played really well all day and got better as the day went along,” Posch said. “I knew it was going to be tough for sophomores, but they’re playing better than sophomores right now. They have varsity experience, so we expect a lot out of them this season.” 

Finally, the No. 2 doubles team of Alix Webb and Natalie McIntosh went 1-3 on the evening. The pair’s only win came over Torrie Shufelt and Lacey Yates of Coffeyville 8-0. Webb and McIntosh then lost to Ella Beth and Jenny Heckman of Fort Scott 8-4, Lily Cawyer and Elle Southern of Pittsburg 8-0 and Browyn O’Malley and Blair Dodson of Independence 8-0.

“Alix played some JV last year and Natalie is a beginner, so we know they’ll get better as the season goes on,” Posch said. “They went out and competed, and that’s all we can ask of them right now.” 

With a full roster of six players, three of whom had no varsity experience for Parsons, Posch knows this year’s team is about growth over the course of the season.

“We’re usually not in this situation,” Posch said. “Usually we’re able to load up. But it’ll be difficult for us as a time at a time. But individually, Gracen got 12th at state last year and got a big win over Piper (Marquez) to open this year. It’ll be exciting to see what our returners can do.” 

Parsons’ season resumes on Saturday with a tournament at independence.

“We’ve just got to see how much these girls can improve,” Posch said. “We want to send our top players to state. We want to be in the top-three at SEK, top-two at regionals and send kids to state.” 

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