MHS tennis sending two to state

By Grant Guggisberg

It was a day filled with ups and downs for the Manhattan High girls’ tennis team playing in the Topeka tennis regional on Saturday.

The team got to experience the joy of winning the doubles bracket, as the pairing of Kristen Fraley and Cathy Lei won 6-1, 6-4 against Washburn Rural’s Mikaela Steinagel and Darby Hirsch to give Manhattan its first regional doubles title in four years.

“It was just a phenomenal day,” Manhattan coach Joyce Allen said. “Four years ago, Kristen’s older sister Kayla and her partner Andrea Kruse won a doubles regional, so it’s been four years. So that was really special.”

But the day was also bittersweet for the rest of the team, as both Bianca Pedrozo and Caroline Sager came close to qualifying for state in singles but fell short. The young doubles pair of Tracy Le and Pajsoua Lo were unseeded and were drawn into the bracket against Steinagel and Hirsch in the first round and lost in straight sets.

“It was a bittersweet day,” Allen said. “We were so excited for Kristen and Cathy, and we were so close in some of our singles matches.”

Pedrozo, who came in seeded seventh, won her first match 6-2, 6-1 against Wichita East before losing to Derby in her second match, 6-4, 6-2. She got a tough draw when the No. 3 seed in the bracket was upset by the sixth seed and knocked out Pedrozo, 6-3, 6-1.

As the No. 8 seed in singles, Sager finished the day 1-2, beating Junction City in her opening match 6-1, 6-0, before falling to Rural’s Madeline Hill, 6-0, 6-0. She was eliminated by Rural’s Avery Munns in a three-set match, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

For Fraley and Lei, the day began with a win over Wichita North, 6-0, 6-1 and a win over sixth-seeded Wichita East 6-0, 6-4. Then the pair had to play Rural’s No. 2 pairing of Irene Nicolae and Malaina Piyassaphan, in what turned out to be a marathon match and a Manhattan win, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3).

“We blew through them in the first set,” Allen said. “Kristen and Cathy almost didn’t make a mistake in the first set.”

The match was neck and neck from there, but once the Indians got to the tiebreaker, they cruised to the win.

In the finals, the pair once again played strong in the opening set before Rural made adjustments in the second set.

“It was a really good win for those two,” Allen said. “They just showed people that they can put it all together.”

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