3 players each from LVHS, Lansing still alive

What a wild and crazy ride this 2017 girls’ prep tennis season has been for the Lansing High and Leavenworth High programs.

Lansing, with a streak of state qualifiers to protect, turned to young, feisty, inexperienced but hyper-competitive athletes who more than rose to the occasion and sent three Lions to this weekend’s Class 5A state finals in Arkansas City, Kansas.

Not to be undone, the Pioneers saw both senior Meredith Roberts and junior Alexis Cole make the state finals once again while LVHS freshman Samantha Casmus decided to crash the party as well. 

All told, six area girls will represent the two local high schools at the state finals with hopes of surviving Friday and making it through to the Saturday rounds in hopes of medaling. 

For Casmus, who teamed with Cole to win the Leavenworth regional title, it’s been fun playing with her older teammate.

“It’s pretty exciting and the most fun will be playing with Alexis – she’s a great person, she’s fun to be around and makes everything fun,” Casmus said. “Tennis brought us together and it’s a really comfortable team. I was aiming for fifth place (to qualify for state) and I am pretty happy we got first. At first, we were off our game and then later on, it just kind of clicked. Honestly, our goals are to place and have fun. If we don’t place, at least have fun.

“Alexis is a senior next year, so I want her to get as much out of this as I do. She helps me a lot. When I miss at the net, she’s all over the place, she’s really good. I help at the net … and with serves sometimes.”

LVHS head coach Shad Langfoss saw the team get going at the right time while Roberts is ready for a second chance at making state memories.

“They are both very consistent players (in doubles),” Langfoss said of Cole and Casmus. “They fine-tuned their game and just took off their power and moved toward accuracy. Playing in doubles, play the angles. You don’t have to hit it hard, just place it where they will not be able to get it back into play. It’s about hitting it to the open spots. They both realized that and got really aggressive at the net. It got to the point where if we got one to the net, it would be point over. Now they are both able to get up there and win their points. They don’t wait for the opponent to make mistakes.

“We will definitely miss Meredith since she has played No. 1 for us for a while, but she has to graduate and move on. That will be tough to fill. Hopefully with some success in the program, we will try to get more middle schoolers out and promote the sport. I am just trying to get to the younger ones and get them into another sport.”

Lansing was able to qualify thanks to a lottery win in regional placement, going to a Leavenworth field that was much less demanding than the vaunted DeSoto ensemble, and having athletic girls who had high expectations for themselves.

“There is the athleticism and they are competitive, which comes with the other sports they play,” Lansing head coach Edward Fenton said. “Then it was to build upon the previous week and as long as you get better each week, who knows where you will end up. This year, our regional in Leavenworth helped us. I told the girls, at this point, bonus tennis, because we didn’t think we were going to be here. The fact that we have a doubles team and a singles player, that’s my goal every year. This weekend offers us an opportunity to see where we are at and then come back and know what we have to work on.”

Fenton said that the DeSoto regional was so stacked that players ranked in the Top 10 in their respective flights were left home for this weekend and that knowledge has kept the Lions humble and hungry.

All three of his state qualifiers are underclassmen and he returns all but one player in 2018. Fenton hopes that the experiences only amp up the team’s willingness to push their games up a notch.

“We are happy where we are, but we can’t sit back and think it’s going to be like this next year, we have to keep improving,” Fenton said. “We started out struggling this season and worked to get here. To go from where these girls did after only three months of tennis experience last year and qualifying for state, regardless of what regional we were in, is still pretty good.

“Trinity is a grinder, she’s a backboard. If she’s in a quick match, it’s not going to be good for her. She keeps every ball in play and gets to every ball. She’s getting to those shots that a lot of girls don’t and that frustrates her opponents. She will make that other girl work her butt off. She’s getting a lot of unforced errors. Darby and Mirinda built upon their first match of the season and have been together all season. They won’t have big serves or big returns, they won’t have the put-away volley every time, but they will make you hit one more ball. Our goal is to be the team hitting the last shot. It may not be a winner, but we will put you in a tough position.”

For Hall, the opportunity was there after taking the right approach along with the rest of the team.

“Coming into the season, we just wanted to improve,” Hall said. “We wanted to do great at regionals and do our best by working on what we needed to work on. State was a complete shock to us. We are all competitive people and we want to win. The fact we are all athletic helps. Some of these girls can play really good tennis, but I think we can keep up because we are athletic and we always want to win. That’s what really pushed us.

“We do not like losing and we are having the most fun when we are winning. (This weekend) I just want to compete and see how I improved and where I stand. This is really exciting and going to state is amazing.”