KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The season didn’t end, but Platte County coaches and players knew they would never have the same group together again in a team situation.
Liberty swept the Class 2 District 16 championship dual with Platte County 5-0, taking all three doubles matches and the first two singles matches Wednesday, Sept. 28 at Clayview Country Club. The Pirates played in their first ever district final and finished at 10-2 overall — a record good enough to be considered the best season in the relatively short history of the program.
Platte County still had the individual tournament later in the week, but there was at least a twinge of emotion after the final dual for four important seniors — Rachel Valentine, Madalyn Ivy, Stephanie Laures and Lauren Laderoute.
“We’ve put so much into the team, and we’ve been together for two years,” Ivy said. “We have a lot of memories, and we’ve just bonded really well.”
Platte County went 4-0 in Suburban Conference Blue Division play, winning at least a share of a fifth straight league title. The Pirates were dominant, winning 35 of 36 matches and then sweeping the championships of the individual Blue Division Tournament brackets.
Unbeaten for much of the season, Platte County’s lone blemishes were a loss to Park Hill in the regular season and a third-place showing in the Suburban North Tournament — the best ever finish in that event for the Pirates.
The difficult went up in the District 16 final against three-time defending champion Liberty, which features just one senior and entered with a 17-1 record. The Blue Jays were dominant early with 8-1 and 8-2 wins at No. 3 and No. 1 doubles.
Rachel Valentine and Laures fought back late after facing a 5-2 deficit but lost 8-4 in the No. 2 doubles match, upping the difficulty of the potential comeback.
“It was pretty obvious after doubles that they were very good,” Platte County coach Zach Keith said. “We hadn’t seen them this year so I didn’t know how good they were. I had just seen a lot of their scores, so I knew they’d be really good.
“It kind of gives you an idea of where there level is at.”
Liberty’s Megan Dolsky took the No. 6 singles match 6-0, 6-2 over Mikayla Landers, and the Blue Jays held a lead in all six singles matches. Colby Kelley, a freshman, quickly dispatched Rachel Valentine 6-1, 6-0 in the No. 1 match to officially end the dual.
The other four matches were not completed, although Laderoute nearly took the first set of her No. 5 singles match. Anna Persell had taken the advantage with a 7-6 (8-6) victory in the opener.
“It’s been great,” Laderoute said. “I’m just real happy to be a part of it. I definitely wanted to keep playing. I had confidence going into that second set. We just wanted to go out and compete with them. We knew they were really good.”
Rachel Valentine (No. 1), Ivy (No. 2) and Laures (No. 4) were all four-year contributors to a program that peaked in their final season, teaming up with Laderoute (first full year on varsity), sophomore No. 3 Hannah Valentine and Landers to form the deepest team since the program started a decade ago.
Moving forward, Landers and Hannah Valentine should provide proven experience, while junior Brittany Alvarado played varsity as a sophomore. In addition, Lauryn Klein and Crystal Billings — both sophomores — received cameos in the lineup this season due to illnesses and absences.
“Coaching them and being a part of this team was just a lot of joy,” Keith said.
Class 2 District 16 individual tournament
Platte County’s season remained alive Friday, Sept. 30 at Clayview Country Club with a redemptive victory for Hannah Valentine and Ivy.
What became the Pirates’ top doubles team this season, the sophomore-senior combo faced St. Joseph Central’s Emily Hill and Haley Hopkins in a semifinal. Hill and Hopkins won the first two matches this season between the two, but the third matchup went to a third set.
Ivy and Hannah Valentine won the decider to give Platte County an entry into Sectional 8 play for the third time ever and second straight year. The Pirates team upset Liberty in the quarterfinals before winning the semi and finished as runner-up in the bracket.
“I don’t count anybody out on our team. That’s just the personality they have,” Keith said. “It’s fun coaching them because they go out and compete with anybody.”
In 2015, Rachel Valentine finished as district runner-up in singles, but her career came to an end with a semifinal loss Friday. She placed third but missed one of the two sectional spots by just one victory.
Hannah Valentine and Ivy finished third place last year but came back this season to become first-time sectional qualifiers.
In the sectional matchup Tuesday, Oct. 4 at Clayview, Hannah Valentine and Ivy hung close early before losing 7-5, 6-0 to District 15 champions Abby Norris and Chloe Norris of Park Hill South. The final five games were played indoors due to the approaching weather.
Platte County still hasn’t produced an individual state qualifier despite having sectional entrants each of the past two years. The winners of sectional matches advance on to state.