TOPEKA — A year marred by inconsistency saw the script flip for Jaidyn Shultz and Lauren Farris at the KSHSAA 4A State Tennis Championships on Saturday.
The Parsons top doubles team took seventh place, earning a medal and finishing the tournament with three wins over five matches.
“They had a really good week of practice leading up to Friday,” Parsons head coach Tyler Beardmore said. “We’ve seen them practice all year like they played this weekend. They came out focused. Having one year of state gave them some confidence.”
Shultz and Farris won their first round matchup over Collegiate’s Nichols/Yoakum by a score of 6-4, 6-4 before falling to Hayden’s Jenny Voegeli and Allyson Meier in the second round 6-4, 6-0.
In Shultz and Farris’ final match of Friday, they ousted Bishop Miege’s duo of Hagan and Hayward in a tiebreaker 9-8 (5).
“After that Collegiate match, we knew they could compete with anybody they played,” Beardmore said. “The Hayden team was really good. But they followed that match up by beating a Bishop Miege team that beat them 8-4 earlier this year.”
On Saturday, Shultz and Farris opened up with a loss to Independence’s Tia Gregory and Piper Marquez 9-4.
The Parsons duo wrapped up their stay at state with a win over Hesston’s Martin and Albin in the seventh place match by a score of 9-7.
The showing for Shultz and Farris was a ticker-tape end to a season that started with high expectations.
“Honestly, we got closer towards the end of the season,” Shultz said. “That helped us really improve our game.”
As for Parsons’ singles competitor Gracen Friess, her stay at state lasted just one day. Friess went 1-2, dropping her last two matches after winning her first to be knocked out of a medal.
“It definitely wasn’t expected,” Beardmore said. “She was really close to getting top four then fell out of the top eight. In the grand scheme of things, nobody will remember that she didn’t place at state. They’ll remember how coachable she was and the hard work she put in.”
Friess opened state with a 7-6 (3), 6-0 win over Eliza Camp of Winfield.
In the next round, Friess fell to Buhler’s Brittany Teufel 6-3, 6-2 to lose out a berth into the semifinals.
Friess was then eliminated by Independence’s Abby Veile — a rematch of the regional final that lasted four hours before Friess eked out a win — by a 9-4 score.
“Gracen likes to play people who have more pace on their shots,” Beardmore said. “Abby is more of a backboard. She gets everything back and won’t beat herself. Those types of players are tough to play.”
Friess, the lone senior on the Parsons roster, ends her career with two SEK League and two regional singles titles to go along with three berths to state.
“As her dad Kurt Friess would say, hard work paid off for her,” Beardmore said. “Over the last four years, she never had bad practices. Never questioned the coaching. She just worked hard and put in hours outside of practice.”
Parsons finished the state tournament tied for eighth in the team standings in Beardmore’s first year as the team’s head coach.
“We were SEK runners up and had a chance to win regionals,” Beardmore said. “We had a doubles team medal. We had a lot of first place finishes individually at meets. That’s really good for us. We had Sydney Schibi become one of the most improved players in the league. Everybody got better from beginning to end.”
Isabella Sebits of Trinity won the individual singles title while Lily Conrad and Ella Graham of Collegiate won the doubles title.
Collegiate also won the state title as a team with 27 points. Circle took second place with 18.
Shultz and Farris will return as seniors next fall to the Parsons tennis program.
“This weekend, they showed what they can do next year,” Beardmore said. “The league will be wide open. The region will be wide open. I expect them to compete for titles there, get back to state and place again. But they’ll need to put in work in the offseason.”