Cats preparing for final matches
The last week in September signifies the heart of the season for most fall sports teams, but for the De Soto tennis squad, it's time for the home stretch.
Regionals is less than two weeks away and Wildcat coach Michael Sullivan said when his team took the court Saturday at the Wildcat Invitational in De Soto and every time they play from now until the Oct. 9 regional tournament, he's searching for the right formula for success.
"When we get to regionals, I have to give our team the best chance to place the highest and get the most players to the state tournament," Sullivan said.
De Soto sent five competitors -- two doubles squads and a singles player -- to last year's state tournament and the team finished third. Maintaining that competitiveness will again require a major presence at the Oct. 13-14 state tournament, Sullivan said, and as the Cats close out the season, that's what they'll focus on.
For the doubles team of Hana Lindbloom and Rebekah Gulley, preparing for the end of the season has been all about maintaining consistency and sharpening skills.
The pair finished third at state a year ago and has planned all season on returning to state, this time to play for the Class 4A title rather than a consolation prize.
Lindbloom and Gulley have lost only once since their semi-final match at last year's state tournament. They fell last week to a Parson's doubles team made up of half of the 4A doubles championship team from a year ago, and the singles state runner up.
"I told the Parsons coach 'I hope we see a rematch, but not until the state finals,'" Sullivan said. "(Parsons) will be the favorites at their regional and the favorites on paper to win it all."
While it's all about getting back for Lindbloom and Gulley, it's all about decisions for Hannah Konetzni and Suzie Gulley.
Konetzni said from the start she'd rather try to return to state as a part of a doubles team, but Sullivan all along said it will come down to what combination offers the most points potential.
At this point, he said it's looking more and more like Konetzni will get her wish. The pair played together several times earlier in the season though they finished fifth in the double's bracket at Saturday's home tournament, they lost only one match and responded by reeling off three straight wins.
The pair lost to Lisa Johnson and Shelly Beck of Mill Valley -- a team they already beat once this season -- 8-6, then advanced to the fifth-place match, where they beat Chelsea Crouch and Kelsey Stanbrough of Bonner Springs 8-7 (4).
"I wanted to give Hannah and Suzie the opportunity to play some No. 1 (teams)," Sullivan said. "They got some good experience. I'm leaning toward putting them on a doubles team for regionals. I haven't made a 100-percent decision, but that's the way I'm leaning right now."
Lindbloom and Rebekah Gulley won the doubles side of the tournament with an 8-2 win over Johnson and Beck, helping De Soto to a third-place finish.
The Cats have two events remaining before they travel to Marysville for the regional tournament. They play at 9 a.m. Saturday in Gardner, then will host Kansas City Christian and Shawnee Mission West Monday in a triangular postponed because of rain.