A four-hour weather delay pushed back the start of the state tennis sectionals at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield, but for Republic tennis seniors Hannah Morgan and Katie Stiles, it was worth the wait. Morgan and Stiles defeated Jungeun Go and Sarah Kiesewetter of Willard in straight sets to advance to the Class 2 state tournament.
Stiles and Morgan didn’t play doubles together all season, but coaches Dan Vales and David Smashey paired them up for the district tournament. Stiles said the late-season switch wasn’t too difficult.
“It wasn’t really that big an adjustment. Hannah and I practice together every day,” Stiles said. “We’ve known each other since we we were … five years old.”
Morgan credits communication between points for much of their playoff success.
“We come together in the middle and we talk about it. If we mess up, we talk what we did and we just come back from it. We know that every point, we can do something new and get it back,” Morgan said.
Republic sent five players to the individual sectional round for the first time in program history. Singles player Elsie Crawford and doubles pair Sedalia Shumaker and Abby McCord both lost their matches Tuesday. But coach Dan Vales said sending five players through to sectionals was impressive, no matter the outcome of Tuesday’s matches.
“We’re super proud of their showing. We talked in the middle of the year about re-focusing [and] re-gearing for this push toward the playoffs, and we’ve really started peaking here,” Vales said. “To have three teams at sectionals is amazing. That’s usually what powerhouse teams in the state do.”
Both Stiles and Morgan say they’re looking forward to meeting new and better teams at the state tournament.
“I think it’s a big accomplishment … being able to go to state and having a chance to go play higher-up people than us,” Morgan said after their win.
And Stiles reflected on how far she and Morgan have come over their careers as their senior season winds down.
“It’s just really good to end on a senior year like this,” Stiles said. “We’ve never even gone close to (this) level. We just keep climbing up the ladder. It feels really good.”
Vales said his senior duo’s experience showed during their match.
“What’s really cool is they almost started coaching themselves out there. They were talking to each other about what they needed to do. They were pushing each other,” Vales said. “I was almost just a cheerleader out there. They really knew what to do. They wanted that match more than that other team, and it showed out there today.”
The Lady Tigers will be back at it Saturday for the team sectionals – a separate tournament bracket where all six Republic players will face Springfield Central.