Rachel Valentine lost 6-1, 6-1 to Park Hill South’s Stephanie Boulenger in a Class 2 Sectional 8 singles match Tuesday, Oct. 6 at Macken Park in North Kansas City, Mo. She came up just one match shy of reaching the Class 2 Missouri State Tennis Championships.
Valentine advanced to sectionals after finishing as runner-up in the Class 2 District 16 individual tournament on Friday, Oct. 2 at Clayview Country Club in Kansas City, Mo. Valentine and the Pirates’ No. 1 doubles team of Hannah Valentine and Madalyn Ivy both reached the semifinals of the brackets — the first time in program history that two entries were one match away from qualification.
The top two in each bracket advance to sectionals.
“I knew based on how St. Joe Central played their team — whether they put their top players in singles or doubles — I knew we had a chance to get somebody through,” Platte County coach Zach Keith said. “Having a chance and actually doing it are two totally different things. You still have to play good tennis to get through.”
Rachel Valentine didn’t know what to expect in her first season at No. 1, which produced the most wins of any top player in one season, but she earned the second seed. She swept her first two matches to reach the final, including a 6-2, 6-3 win against Central’s Hailey Hopkins.
In the final, Staley’s Natalie Thimgan claimed a 6-0, 6-1 win to claim District 16’s top seed and a third trip to sectionals.
“My first match I didn’t feel all that great, but it got better,” Rachel Valentine said. “Winning is nice, and it keeps my confidence up. But hitting the ball in and eating Chinese food keeps my energy up. I’m just glad I made it this far.”
Ivy and Hannah Valentine lost their semifinal to eventual runner-up Hannah Johnston and Emily Hill of Central. Platte County’s top duo came back to claim third place, while junior Stephanie Laures came back from a first-round loss to claim the consolation title.
Platte County had never placed more than one entry at districts prior to Friday, and Rachel Valentine was the first to advance since Taylor Laures in singles in 2012.
“I think the fact we played a tough match with Liberty earlier this week, who was the district champ,” Keith said. “I think it proved to the girls there wasn’t as big of a gap between them and some of the traditional district powers like Liberty and St. Joseph Central. I think they went into their matches believing they were going to win, instead of hoping on their best day they might possibly win. We have a pretty good team. They’ve done well all year; I guess it’s not a shock that they played well today.”
Boulenger, a senior foreign exchange student, claimed the Class 2 District 15 singles title on Saturday, Oct. 3. She beat St. Teresa’s Academy’s Maggie Fielder 6-3, 6-2 in the championship match, but the Stars also claimed both doubles entrants into sectionals.
The Missouri State Tennis Championships’ brackets come out next week, and state play starts Friday, Oct. 6 at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield, Mo.
Last season, Park Hill South’s Adele Royle reached state in singles and medaled for a second straight year. She qualified all four seasons — three times in singles and once in doubles.
Park Hill South 6, St. Teresa’s Academy 2
The Panthers reached the state playoffs for the ninth consecutive season Wednesday, Sept. 30 in Kansas City, Mo., reversing the result of a previous loss.
Cydney Wuebeen and Boulenger (No. 2 doubles), Suzanne Brown (No. 2 singles), Halle Nixon (No. 3 singles) and Brooke Yager (No. 4 singles) recorded four of the victories in the Class 2 District 15 championship dual after losing previous matches against St. Teresa’s competition in a dual earlier this year. The Stars won the prior meeting 6-3 on Sept. 21.
Park Hill South led 2-1 after doubles with Allison Robaska and Yager winning at No. 3. Boulenger also won a singles match as the Panthers closed out the district crown.
Park Hill South (13-3) is scheduled to play Grain Valley (13-2) on Saturday, Oct. 10 in Grain Valley, Mo. The winner of that matchup advances to face either Liberty (12-10) or Notre Dame de Sion (9-4) in a quarterfinal later in the day. The quarterfinal winner advances to the Missouri State Tennis Championships.
In an early season matchup, Notre Dame de Sion beat Park Hill South 5-4.
Liberty 5, Platte County 1
Ivy and Hannah Valentine won 8-1 at No. 2 doubles for the Pirates in what ended up a loss to the eventual Class 2 District 16 champion Tuesday, Sept. 29 in Liberty, Mo.
Liberty led 2-1 after doubles after winning 8-6 against Aliya Harsh and Lauren Laderoute at No. 3. The Blue Jays then finished off wins at Nos. 1, 2 and 6 singles to close out the match.