Lansing girls’ tennis will send athletes to the 5A state tournament for the eighth straight year when seniors Gabriella Scarcelli and Lizzie Martin compete in the doubles tournament beginning Friday in Pittsburg.
The duo is making their first trip to the state tournament in their first season as partners where they went 10-4 and finished in third place at the De Soto regional going 3-1. Their success this season would lead some to think the pair had experience playing together but that was not the case as they both originally intended to compete alone before the season.
“It’s kind of weird because they both started out wanting to play singles,” Lions head coach Eddie Fenton said. “So I went into this season thinking that’s where they would be but as it progressed we saw the best path to state was to put them together and it has worked out.”
Fenton said their differing personalities are part of what makes them a strong team as well as the fact that each can pick the other up on the court.
“Their personalities are different in a way where they really complement each other,” Fenton said. “When one is down, the other can bring them back up. Sometimes you get a doubles team where when things go south for one player, it brings the other down. I haven’t seen that from them this year.”
Scarcelli has played doubles for the majority of her high school career and played with different partners nearly every season. She said that experience has made her a better partner on the court.
“I’ve learned to accustom myself to having new partners and also giving them advice along the way,” Scarcelli said. “With Lizzie having played singles all four years, she had to learn the little tricks that come with doubles, so there’s some patience involved there.”
The adjustments and chemistry-building necessary did not come immediately but it was not long before they began to motivate themselves.
“I remember during our second match where we just looked at each other and said ‘do we want to win, do we really want this?’” Martin said, “and, yeah, we did.”
Scarcelli said the pair has played their best matches against Leavenworth because of how important it is to play well against their rivals. They defeated the Pioneers in the United Kansas Conference tournament in a tiebreaker on Oct. 8 before finishing in second place overall.
As seniors making their first trip to the state tournament, both Martin and Scarcelli know it is important to enjoy the opportunity to compete at that level.
“I think everyone is just expecting us to have fun and get the experience,” Martin said, “since it’s our first year and first time together.”
Fenton said they have been preparing with that in mind and are taking it seriously.
“They understand there’s no next year for them, this is it,” he said. “So they are doing everything they can to make sure they’re prepared for this tournament.”
Martin and Scarcelli mark the eighth straight year of the girls’ tennis program qualifying athletes for state, something Fenton considers to be a boon for the team.
“This was big for the whole team to get them qualified for state because this is our eighth year now,” he said. “It’s nice when you show up to these events and people start to recognize the program is in a good place.”