The Highland High girls tennis doubles team of senior Elisabeth Meadows and junior Kirsten Plocher punched their ticket to the IHSA Class 1A Girls State Tennis Tournament with their fourth-place finish this past weekend at the Triad Sectional.
The state tournament begins Thursday in suburban Chicago.
Meadows said qualifying for the state tourney means so much, especially after all the hard-fought matches her and Plocher have been through the past three seasons.
“We’re finally feeling the pay off,” Meadows said. “We’ve been playing together for awhile now, and last year wasn’t a very strong year for us, but we definitely bounced back this year. We played a lot of really good tennis against hard competition, and made it to the tie breaker in many matches this season. I knew coming into this sectional that it was my last shot, and I had to give it my all. I’ve dreamed of going to state ever since I was a freshman. This is the last time K.P. (Plocher) and I will play together because I’ll be graduating, and we both didn’t want to let each other down. I’m glad we finally made it!”
On Friday, Plocher and Meadows defeated Mascoutah’s No. 2 doubles duo of Colleen Spehar and Paige Engelage in straight sets, 6-1 and 6-1, and then went on to take down Roxan’a No. 1 pair of Haley Milazzo and Sara Kreutztrager in straight sets, 6-3 and 6-1, to secure their spot in the state tournament.
Meadows admitted that she was really nervous when she saw who her and Plocher were playing because she knew they had a really good shot of qualifying for state this year. They had played both teams in the past and Meadows knew they were going to be hard matches, but she also knew that if they kept focused and didn’t get down on themselves they had a really nice shot to come through.
“We played the best tennis of our careers together in our last match,” Meadows said. “K.P. and I were really communicating well and had a lot of confidence there at the end. We never got down on ourselves, and if we lost a point, we’d talk it through to see what we could do better the next point. K.P. and I had both never even played tennis ever before our freshman year and now we’re state qualifiers! We’ve worked really hard, and took lessons during the off season to get where we are, and it’s finally paying off.”
Then on Saturday, Plocher and Meadows lost in the semifinals to Althoff’s No. 1 team of Emma Melichar and Madelyn Skinner before going on to battle tooth and nail before finally succumbing to Althoff’s No. 2 tandem of Olivia Melichar and Mary Nester, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, in the third-place match.
But the Bulldog pair had already clinched their spot in the state tournament the day before and Plocher said it means an incredible amount to both her and Meadows because it’s Meadows’ senior year and Plocher really wanted to make this year a year to remember.
“Going to state will definitely be the highlight,” Plocher said. “My reaction when I knew we had finally won the match was just to put my hands up in joy and then to go high five Lis for what I knew we deserved through hard work. I feel this accomplishment reflects on me and Lis as well as Matt for all the work he’s put in as well working with us, even when it wasn’t the number one thing he wanted to do because we can be hard to deal with sometimes. But I definitely feel it has paid off because we can finally say we’ve met our goal.”
Highland coach Matt Pellock said he is very proud of Meadows and Plocher and their state qualification in their third season together as a doubles team.
“They knew they had a good opportunity getting a chance to play a Roxana doubles team they saw during the season and had a straight-set win in the regular-season meeting,” he said. “They had to get through a very capable Mascoutah team who had a good season at two doubles. Kirsten and Elisabeth were very dominant in that first match and looked confident. The Roxana team they faced is a skilled doubles team, but we took care of our service games very well, only dropping serve once. Kirsten held serve the entire day and that is always key for those two, with Kirsten having a great serve and good groundstrokes while Beth is excellent at capitalizing on net opportunities.”
Pellock said the two had a great season as the No. 2 doubles team in 2014 before losing a lot of close matches last season that didn’t give them the opportunity to play doubles in last year’s sectional.
“They had great wins this year against top sectional opponents, and they capitalized on their opportunity,” he said. “This was a senior-heavy sectional, with lots of good players. I think their will be some opportunities at state for multiple wins for these two, and that should be their goal.”
Mississippi Valley Conference Tournament
Highland finished third in the MVC team standings with 26 points.
Jerseyville and Triad engaged in a tight-knit battle for the team title that ended up being decided by a single point, with the Panthers nipping the Knights 42-41.
Highland edged Mascoutah (24) by two points for third place.
Waterloo (7) and Civic Memorial (4) rounded out the conference field.
HHS’ best finish came from Ashley Basden, who was crowned the conference championship at No. 6 singles without dropping a set.
After receiving a bye in the first round, Basden dominated Mascoutah’s Emma Cook 6-2, 6-0 to reach the finals. Basden followed the impressive semifinal victory up with a 6-3, 6-4 straight-set win over Jerseyville’s Chelsea Maag to score the Bulldogs’ only individual MVC title.
Highland’s next best finish in singles came from Kate Feldmann, who earned third place at the fourth spot.
After a first-round bye, Feldmann suffered a 3-6, 1-6 setback to eventual champion Maddie Bugger of Jerseyville. But Feldmann recovered very nicely to post a hard-fought 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 see-saw triumph over Paige Engelage of Mascoutah to claim third place.
Highland’s other singles players finished s follows: Elisabeth Meadows, fourth place at No. 2 singles; senior Anjuli Kampwerth, fourth place at No. 3 singles; Ariana Kampwerth, fourth place at No. 5 singles; and Kirsten Plocher, fifth place at No. 1 singles.
In doubles, the Bulldogs received two second-place finish as well as a fourth place.
Highland’s No. 2 doubles team of Feldmann and Taylor Fleming and the No. 3 tandem Anjuli Kampwerth and Mia Walters recorded the second-place finishes.
At the second slot, Feldmann and Fleming first received a bye before besting Mascoutah’s Engelage and Colleen Spehar 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals.
Then in the championship match, Feldmann and Fleming fell 3-6, 5-7 to the Triad sister duo of Catherine and Christine Catalano.
After getting a bye to open at No. 3 doubles, Kampwerth and Walters outlasted the Triad team of Sydney Hefferly and Molly Suess in the semifinal by scores of 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
Then in the final, Kampwerth and Walters battled long and hard before finally succumbing to Jerseyville’s Maag and Hannah Hudson by scores of 7-5, 2-6, 1-6.
At the top doubles position, Plocher and Meadows easily swung by Civic Memorial’s Samantha Mann and Tahler Davis 6-1, 6-1.
Plocher and Meadows were edged out in their last two matches.