BUHLER — The Hesston High School girls tennis team had a stellar day in singles, but struggled with varsity novices in doubles, tying for fifth out of eight teams Thursday in the Hesston Invitational I.
To ensure social distancing, the tournament was moved to the Buhler High School courts for singles play and the Prairie Hills Middle School courts for doubles play.
Buhler won the team title with 24 points, followed by McPherson at 20, Maize South at 18 and Wichita Collegiate at 14. Hesston and Wichita Trinity Academy tied for fifth with 11 points each. Abilene and Smoky Valley each scored seven points.
Collegiate is the defending Class 4A state champion, while Buhler is the defending runner-up. Hesston was fifth at state last year. McPherson was fifth in Class 5A last year. Smoky Valley was sixth in Class 3-2-1A.
"It was a good test and tells you where you are," Hesston coach Travis Sebits said. "Collegiate and Buhler are all at the top of 4A. Mac is a 5A school."
The Swathers were led by Gracie Dawes, who won the second singles title at 3-0. Dawes topped Matigan Kobiskie of Abilene 8-1, Sienna Douglas of Buhler 8-1 (a non-scoring entry) and Casey Lehl of Buhler 8-5 in the finals.
Dawes was tied with Lehl 4-4, but won four of the next five sets for the title.
"It’s been really fun so far. I’m really excited," Dawes said. "I kind of came over to my coach and said, ‘I’m going to break it right here.’ "
Dawes was a state qualifier last season, but failed to medal.
"I’d like to place at state this season," Dawes said. "I’d like to improve some more."
Dawes said she didn’t play any summer tournaments, but did take a lot of lessons.
At first singles, Michaela Martin placed fifth at 2-1. After an 8-0 first-round loss to Patty Huerta, of McPherson, Martin downed Logan Spencer, of Smoky Valley, 8-2. In the fifth-place match, Martin downed Addison Russell, of Maize South, 8-2.
"They both ended their day very well," Sebits said. "Michaela has played most of her career as a doubles player. She’s been a doubles champion (in 2018 with Kylie Martin). Playing singles in her first match, she faced a really tough player. After that, she settled down and played very well. Her confidence grew. She beat a nice Maize South player for fifth. Gracie really looked strong. She’s such a competitor. She just won’t quit.
"As a coach, I’ve seen her play enough, when she gets in a tough match, she’s in great shape. It’s hot out. I was really proud of both girls. They played their best matches in the last match, which is nice to see."
The first doubles team of Cassie Albin and Cora Yoder finished eighth at 0-3. The second doubles team of Amala John and Hannah Bontrager also finished eighth at 0-3. All four were making their varsity debut.
"It was their first varsity experience ever," Sebits said. "They’ve played JV. Being in your first varsity match against McPherson, Buhler and Maize (South), that’s a big jump up. Playing good people, we know what they need to work on. We’ll get better, certainly."
Hesston plays Tuesday at the Hillsboro Invitational.
"It’s a little bit smaller tournament," Sebits said. "We’re just happy to play."