by Michael Smith
The early season test in the Joplin Tournament proved to be valuable for the Grain Valley girls tennis team.
That is what veteran head coach Randy Draper said after his team’s Thursday dual with Blue Springs.
That tournament is a part of a tough schedule that includes many Class 3 teams the Eagles will face, which includes Blue Springs.
Grain Valley was up to the challenge as it finished fifth in the Joplin Tournament, defeated Lee’s Summit North 8-1 on Tuesday and improved to 2-0 in dual play following a 9-0 rout of the Wildcats at home.
“I thought the Joplin Tournament was really good for us,” Draper said. “We played a lot and played some really good teams. I thought it sped up our process a little bit. We have a pretty high ceiling.”
“We have a very tough non-conference schedule. There will be a lot of chances to get better.”
Those getting better, include No. 1 singles player Finley LaForge and No. 2 Kylee Bragaw. LaForge has two state medals to her name when she was partners with Chelsea Gorden, who graduated last year. Now, she is teaming with Bragaw and the duo has seen some early season success including a 8-1 victory against Blue Springs No. 1 team of Molly Hocker and Grace Deaton.
“This year has been going pretty well,” LaForge said. “Kylee was already my friend before and we had that chemistry built. We applied it to the court and the season has gone really well so far. We also played in the Summer Slam in offseason so that helped, too.”
LaForge also soundly defeated Hocker in the No. 1 singles match 8-1 and Bragaw topped Kameryn Bush 8-1 in the No. 2 match.
“I served really well, I think I only had one double fault,” LaForge said. “Usually I have a couple more than that.”
Added Draper: “Kylee has made a big jump with her volleys and she is a really good tennis player. I think the ceiling for that doubles team is high.”
At No. 2 doubles, Brooklyn Spencer and Cate Barnes cruised to a 8-2 victory against Bush and Fae Knudsen. Spencer also beat Knudsen at No. 3 singles 8-2 and Barnes had a tough match with Deaton at No. 4, but won 8-6.
“My serves were pretty good in singles and we had good teamwork in doubles,” Barnes said.
Varsity newcomers Ava Lin and Kate Unrein also had a chance to shine as they looked strong in a 8-0 victory against Jasmine Samuels and Alexandra Ritland. Lin raced past Samuels at No. 5 singles 8-2 and Unrein earned an 8-3 victory over Ritland.
“I usually know what to expect,” Draper said. “I’ve been really pleased with our No. 3 doubles team. I wasn’t sure where we would fit in there. I have been really pleased with them.”
Grain Valley sophomore Cate Barnes won her No. 4 singles match 8-6 and teamed with Brooklyn Spencer to capture an 8-2 victory in No. 2 doubles. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley junior Kate Unrein prepares to serve in her No. 6 singles match against Blue Springs' Alexandra Ritland. Unrein won the match 8-3 as the Eagles beat Blue Springs 9-0.
Photo credit: Michael Smith
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