Graduation to force split in Wildcats’ core
It will be a whole new world for the De Soto tennis program.
Sure the Wildcats will have a few major bridges tying it to the unprecedented success of 2007, but 2008 promises to be a different experience as for the first time in years, a significant number of slots will open up on the varsity roster.
De Soto rode a second-place finish at state from the doubles team of Rebekah Gulley and Hana Lindbloom and a fourth-place showing by Hannah Konetzni to claim second as a team at state.
"Finishing second at the state is amazing," De Soto coach Michael Sullivan said. "With having the boys finish second last year and the girls this year, it's just very special. If we look at this school's history, there aren't very many state titles or runner up, but the tennis program has two now."
The Cats will lose three of their six regular varsity players, however, ensuring the stability of recent years has passed.
Gulley, who joined Lindbloom to earn a third-place finish at state and two second-place finishes in her career, plans to continue her career at Baker University.
The pair finished 2007 34-4, having piled up three regional championships in the three years playing together.
Konetzni also shined on the varsity squad for three seasons, a run capped by her run in the singles bracket this October. She also qualified as a part of a doubles team as a sophomore and a junior.
She was 30-7 playing singles in her senior season, advancing to the Class 4A state semifinals for her deepest run in her state career.
The squad also will graduate Brittny Smith, who mostly played varsity doubles this season, Brianna Armstong and Arica Fort.
"We're losing a lot of depth," Sullivan said. "Four of our top seven will be open."
There are plenty of reasons to think the Cats will be able to continue with their dominating tennis program another year, Lindbloom being the primary evidence.
The senior-to-be will no doubt have a big decision to make in regard to singles or doubles. She should prove equally lethal in both.
In addition to dominating the doubles circuit with Gulley, Lindbloom is 13-1 over the last two seasons when split off to play singles. She was 2-1 in 2007, losing only to a 6A state qualifier from Olathe Northwest.
Lindbloom is 13-1 over the last two seasons when split off to play singles. She was 2-1 in 2007, losing only to a 6A state qualifier from Olathe Northwest.
"She has a lot of options," Sullivan said. "We'll determine that when the season starts. We'll discuss it over the summer."
If she opts for doubles, she should be fine, too.
The most likely partner would be Suzie Gulley, Rebekah's sophomore sister.
Suzie Gulley will return as the team's second most accomplished player, having paired with Konetzni to qualify for state last season, then falling just short this year.
Gulley finished the year 22-9 playing singles. She qualified out of the regional, but fell while playing to qualify for state, losing a three set match.
"Hana and Suzie could make a very good doubles team, or they could make a great one-two punch in singles," Sullivan said.
Junior Kara Doherty is the only other Cat returning with significant varsity experience. Doherty was 4-2 in singles and 10-11 playing doubles.
Freshman Emily Bilger and junior Jessica Chicoine also got a taste for the varsity level, but only played in one tournament.
With 12 players listed as underclassmen on this year's roster and only three spots seemingly available, there should be heated competition to make varsity for the first time in years, Sullivan said.
"We had a great group of freshmen this year. They were beginners, but they made a lot of progress," Sullivan said. "We have a lot of young players and borderline varsity players and I hope a lot of them take it to the next level this summer.
"It's what they do in the summer that really makes an impact."