Oct. 11—For the third straight season, all six Manhattan High girls' tennis players qualified for the Class 6A state tournament.
Jillian Harkin, Maura Wiens, Ava Bahr and Hannah Loub and Jessica Zhang and Erin Craft punched their tickets to state after standout performances last week at a regional tournament at Kossover Tennis Center in Topeka.
As a team, the Indians finished second with 19 points, behind regional champion Washburn Rural.
Harkin continued to exhibit dominance, dropping only two games the entire day on her way to a straight-set shutout of her four opponents.
"I told her afterwards not to let anybody to make (winning a regional championship) less than it is," Manhattan head coach Tony Ingram said. "Nobody was there for the process when she was young and her and her dad were hitting on the courts. All of the time that she's put in has made her as good as she is. Even though it was a fairly easy task for her (to win regionals), I told her to definitely be proud of it. I'm happy for her and her family as well. It's a great accomplishment."
Harkin, a junior who will be competing in her third state tournament, opened things with 6-0, 6-0 wins over Alvarez from Topeka High, Cho from Junction City and teammate Maura Wiens before beating Wichman from Washburn Rural (6-1, 6-1) to cap two days of stellar tennis.
Wiens' loss to Harkin was her lone setback of the tournament as she went 3-1, earning third place overall.
Wiens, who also is heading to her third-straight state tournament — but her first as a singles player — opened with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Fierros from Wichita North. She then battled to a win over DiMarzio from Washburn Rural, falling 4-6 in the opening set before winning Set 2 by a 6-2 score. She went on to win the tiebreaker 10-5.
"Maura's skillset has really come along in the last year especially, and quite a long way from when she was a freshman," Ingram said. "Her consistency has grown. She's not a one-dimensional player, which makes her very competitive. It's exciting because she has another year with the program, and I think she can go to state this weekend and surprise a couple of people if she continues her consistency and competitiveness."
The loss to Harkin in the semifinals sent her to the third-place match versus Weir-Dowd of Derby, and after falling down 4-1 in the opening set, she rallied to win 7-6(3) and rolled in her second set 6-1 to snag the bronze medal.
Also earning bronze for the Indians was the senior duo of Bahr and Loub.
This will be Loub's third state tournament and Bahr's second.
They started with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Wichita East followed by a 6-3, 6-3 win over Ulwelling and Karel of Derby before falling in a three-set match to Schmutzler and Beck of Washburn Rural. The Manhattan duo dropped the first 4-6 before winning the second 6-4. They lost the deciding set 6-3.
In the third-place match, Loub and Bahr dispatched Carpenter and Caryl of Topeka High 6-3 and 7-5.
"They came in as the third seed and finished third, which is good," Ingram said. "They did have an opportunity against Washburn Rural. ... I think they were disappointed in that outcome, but they didn't hold on to it. When they're playing well, they're a really good team, but at the same time, we sometimes talk about that fine line. They're going to compete hard and they play well together and they're starting to gel very well."
Lastly, making their first trips to state, Jessica Zhang and Erin Craft went 3-1 to take fifth place.
Zhang and Craft started with a 6-0, 6-0 sweep of Perez and Vargas of Wichita North and went on to lose a close match to Topeka High's top doubles teams before rebounding versus Yager and Walsh of Derby 6-2, 6-4.
They continued their rally and got a big final win versus Topeka High's No. 2 doubles team (5-7, 6-1, 6-2) to lock up their fifth-place finish.
"They have the ability to play really well, and it's just finding out what they need to do when they're not playing well to get back on track," Ingram said. "I'm very happy for them. They're not experienced necessarily, but they're both great groundstroke hitters and are still learning some doubles nuances."
The Indians make their way down to Wichita on Thursday. with a pit stop at Bethel College to hit for an hour or so before the state tournament begins Friday morning at the Riverside Tennis Complex in Wichita.
"League, regionals and state are a very fun time," Ingram said. "It all happens very quickly, and you see the girls succeed. After seeing what they've put into tennis up until this point and to have that pay off and make it to state ... it's fun being a coach and watching your players compete at a high level. At this point, for me, I want the girls to enjoy the moment and not make it too much bigger than it is."
Play starts Friday morning at 10:30 a.m.