Stephanie Boulenger provided a temporary patch, but the real test for Park Hill South starts this season.
Winners of three straight Class 2 district championships, the Panthers enter the season with equal parts experience and spots to fill. The most noticeable void will be at the top after the loss of another state qualifier.
Boulenger, a foreign exchange student from Belgium, played at the top of the lineup last season and won the Class 2 District 15 championship and a Sectional 4 playoff matchup to advance to state in her only season at Park Hill South. She went 1-2 in the state singles bracket to just miss a chance at a top-eight finish and a medal.
In addition, Park Hill South (14-4 overall, 5-0 Suburban Conference Red Division loses contributors Brooke Yager and Allison Robaska. Suzanne Brown, now a senior, returns for a fourth season in the top six and could take over the top spot after playing No. 2 for a second straight season as a junior.
Halle Nixon is Park Hill South’s other key returner, along with contributors Cydney Wuebben and Claudia Chou. Panthers coach Ian Cunliffe also expects Abby Norris and Chloe Norris to make an impact this season.
Last season, Park Hill South won the conference title and then avenged a prior loss to St. Teresa’s Academy to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season. The Panthers advanced to quarterfinals before losing to eventual Class 2 state runnerup Notre Dame de Sion.
Prior to Boulenger’s season at the top, Adele Royle provided a consistent presence at the top of the lineup, leading Park Hill South’s playoff charges in 2013 and 2014. She qualified for state as an individual in each of her four seasons and produced all-state medals in singles during her final two years.
Brown and the rest of the roster will try to find a way to keep the five-year streak of state qualifiers alive.