Lady Owls defend tourney crown
The first two matches were merely a tune-up for the main event Saturday at the Marshall Girls' Tennis Tournament.
For the seventh year in a row, the championship would be decided between the Lady Owls and Kirksville. Marshall's 9-0 preliminary victories over Boonville and Trenton and the Lady Tigers' 7-2 semifinal decision over Grain Valley made sure of that.
As was the case a year ago, the Lady Owls prevailed by a 7-2 margin, ruining Kirksville's bid for three titles in the last four seasons. Typically, most matches were close, four going to a 10-point, third-set tiebreaker -- including at No. 1 singles.
That was where Marshall junior Amy Durham came up with an upset, knocking off senior Amy Ochs -- a three-time state medallist -- in a seesaw 6-1, 2-6 (10-8) clash.
The Lady Owls got straight-set victories from juniors Kelsey Franklin and Courtney Henley, along with senior Sydne Parkhurst, and junior Ali Brandt survived a 6-2, 4-6 (10-4) slugfest with senior Leah Moreland.
At No. 6, senior Jenna Broce notched the Lady Tigers' only singles win, beating freshman Virginia Hutcherson, 6-2, 6-0 -- snapping Marshall's string of consecutive individual victories at 53 matches. Still, the Lady Owls were already assured of the championship, snapping a nine-match win streak for Kirksville (9-1).
Doubles were just as hotly contested. Lady Tigers seniors Sarah Riley and Hilary Thomas got the better of juniors Jenny Gilpin and Chere Wright at No. 2, 6-1, 6-3, but Marshall picked up a pair of down-to-the-wire decisions.
Senior Linzie Bledsoe and sophomore Kim Van prevailed at No. 1, 7-5, 3-6 (13-11), and sophomore Olivia Butler and junior Brittany Wallace won, 6-4, 6-7 (4-7) (10-6). Both of those teams were together for the first time, since freshman Kara Ward -- who normally pairs with Bledsoe at No. 1 -- was out sick.
Marshall had little problem disposing of Boonville (1-9) in the first round -- Durham, Franklin, Brandt and Hutcherson getting 10-0 singles wins and Henley and Parkhurst rolling to 10-1 victories. Bledsoe-Van (10-0), Gilpin-Wright (10-1) and Butler-Wallace (10-3) were not seriously challenged in doubles.
The matches against Trenton (5-4), a more solid foe, were slightly closer -- five of the singles wins were by 10-2 margins and the other was 10-3, also the tally for the closest doubles tilt.
The Lady Owls (9-0) got this deep into the previous season without a loss, but this week will face the crucible following Monday's NCMC match at Mexico: a trip to Columbia the next day to take on Rock Bridge, a perennial Class 2 power which rolled over Marshall, 9-0, a year ago.