KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Stephanie Laures doesn’t quite understand the reason for the challenges, but she’s tried to make the best of her experiences on the court the past two seasons.
The winningest player in Platte County’s history, Laures missed competition on back-to-back days last week with a mysterious illness but returned for a dual with Oak Park on Thursday, Sept. 1. The Pirates senior paired with Rachel Valentine at No. 1 doubles to start the matchup at Oak Park High School and showed some visible frustrations with her early play.
Laures and Valentine lost the opening game, having their serve broken, but rallied for an 8-4 win. Platte County went on to a dominant 9-0 sweep with Laures again overcoming more adversity than just what happens on the court during a frustrating rally.
Prior to her junior year, Laures broke her wrist in a dirt bike accident that left her playing with a cast for most of the season.
“I don’t know what it is,” Laures said. “I feel like something is wanting to make it as hard as possible on me. Not that I have it the worst, but I’m pushing through it.”
With or without Laures in the lineup, Platte County had yet to lose in any competition this year entering a Tuesday, Sept. 6 matchup with Kearney. The two teams split the Suburban Conference Blue Division title a year ago.
Early results show Platte County has no intention of sharing championships this year.
In the matchup with Oak Park, the teams of Madalyn Ivy and Hannah Valentine (No. 1) and Mikayla Landers and Lauren Laderoute (No. 3) combined to lose just three games. They both finished up ahead of the reconnected top team.
Laures and Valentine won four straight after losing the opening game to regain control.
In singles, the Valentines and Ivy all won 8-0 in the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 spots, while Landers prevailed 8-2 at No. 6. Laures and Laderoute were both 8-4 winners. Laures’ hard serve didn’t lapse in her time off, but she did fight some fatigue while rejoining the Pirates after the two off days.
“Not that it’s a huge deal missing two days,” Laures said, “you feel like it wouldn’t affect you physically, but running around got me a little out of breath. I think, yeah, I did experience a lot of rust, but I think it was something mental.”
Rachel Valentine assumed Platte County’s top spot in the lineup last season when Laures appeared a potential fit for that spot.
Instead, Hannah Valentine has moved into the 2 spot, leaving seniors Laures and Ivy at Nos. 3 and 4. All four returned from last year’s lineup, while Laderoute added singles to her workload after contributing in doubles for the Pirates a year ago.
Only Landers is really new to the lineup, and behind the top six sit two to four more qualified players that in other years might be playing a lot.
“Top four is very strong,” Platte County assistant coach Anna Nutt said. “Five and six just keeps improving, and really, seven and eight are really close — just right there.”
That includes Crystal Billings, unexpectedly forced to replace Laures in one dual last week and then earning her first career victory in a sweep of Winnetonka. This depth has Platte County hoping for a deeper run in the team district play while challenging for individual state spots.
Last year, the Pirates lost in the semifinals of Class 2 District 16 play to eventual champion Liberty. Rachel Valentine advanced to sectional competition with a runner-up showing in singles, while Hannah Valentine and Ivy (doubles) placed third and Laures (singles) fifth in district competition.
Platte County 9, Winnetonka 0
Playing without Laures for a second straight match, the Pirates were still dominant in improving to 2-0 in Suburban Conference Blue Division play. They were scheduled to continue the league schedule Tuesday, Sept. 6 against Kearney, but the result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.
Billings notched her first varsity win while filling in, part of an easy singles sweep for Platte County. She also paired with Laderoute in a No. 3 doubles victory.
Park Hill South 5, Notre Dame de Sion 4
The Panthers defeated last year’s state runner-up in another close finish Wednesday, Aug. 31 at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo.
Eva Kresovic made her season debut and played at No. 1 for Park Hill South (3-2), earning an 8-4 win. The Panthers also won at Nos. 3-5 to take a 4-2 lead into doubles. However, Notre Dame de Sion won tight 9-7 matchups at Nos. 1 and 2, making the win for Suzanne Brown and Cydney Wuebben at No. 3 the deciding result.
Park Hill South played matches on three straight days, starting with a loss to St. Teresa’s Academy in a rematch of last year’s Class 2 District 15 championship. Park Hill South and Notre Dame de Sion played in last year’s quarterfinal round with the Storm winning 5-0 on the way to a runner-up showing.
Liberty 6, Park Hill South 3
The Panthers opened Suburban Conference Red Division play with a loss Tuesday, Aug. 30 in Liberty, Mo. — their second straight loss after opening the season 2-0. This marked the second of three straight matchups between returning Class 2 playoff teams for Park Hill South.
Brown (No. 3) and Annie Saunders (No. 6) earned singles victories for Park Hill South, while Brown and Wuebben were 8-2 winners at No. 3. Liberty won singles matches at Nos. 4 and 5 by scores of 10-8 and 9-8 to take control of the matchup.
Park Hill 7, Lee’s Summit North 2
The Trojans improved to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in Suburban Conference Gold Division play with a win Thursday, Sept. 1 in Lee’s Summit, Mo.
In singles, Park Hill went 4-2 with dominant wins from No. 1 Kansas Dreps, No. 3 Sushma Grandham and No. 4 Caille Laude. Those three combined to lose just five games, including Laude’s 10-1 win against Emily Master. Lily Cota survived for a critical 11-9 victory at No. 6.
Park Hill swept the doubles with Dreps and Ruth Francis 8-1 winners at No. 1.