By RICK PETERSON
After an uncharacteristic third-place finish in last year's city girls tennis tournament, perennial city power Washburn Rural found its way back to the top Thursday at Kossover Tennis Center, riding its balance to a 28-23 victory over 2020 champion Seaman.
The Junior Blues advanced their entire team to the finals to put themselves in position to win the tournament and finished the day with two titles and two runner-up finishes to claim the team championship.
Washburn Rural got titles in No. 2 singles from Mena DiMarzio and in No. 2 doubles from Hailey Beck and Shelby Schmutzler while Sheriden Wichman finished second in No. 1 singles and Meredith Kucera and Kate Fritz took second in No. 1 doubles.
DiMarzio captured the No. 2 singles title with an 8-1 win over Seaman's Katie Krumins while Beck and Schumutzler remained undefeated on the season with an 8-1 win over Hayden.
"It was a good team win for the girls, to have the No. 2s come through like we thought they could,'' Washburn Rural coach Kevin Hedberg said. "I really like our depth and our depth really came through today.''
Hayden freshman Ainzley Zulueta was a hit in her first city tournament, claiming the No. 1 singles championship, while Seaman senior Grace Unruh and junior Lauren Sweeney successfully defended their No. 1 doubles championship.
Zulueta claimed the No. 1 singles crown with an 8-1 win in the finals over Rural two-time city champ Wichman.
"The past two tournaments have been kind of tough and I had some tough losses, so it felt pretty good to win again,'' Zulueta said. "I was nervous going into the finals match, but it just kind of fell my way once I started getting the lead.''
Zulueta said getting out in front early was the key to the match.
"It helps a lot,'' she said. "Usually when I lose the first game I'm kind of discouraged, but after winning the first game I kind of carried on with that.''
Until recently Zulueta wasn't aware of the city meet, but was happy to get Thursday's win.
"I didn't even know there was a city meet, to be honest,'' Zulueta said. "I only knew about regionals and state, but once it was the month of September I saw the city meet and thought, 'That's pretty important.' A lot of people told me about it and it seemed like something I wanted to win.''
Unruh and Sweeney swept the city, Centennial League and regional doubles titles a year ago before finishing fourth in the Class 5A state meet and are off and rolling again, improving to 17-0 with Thursday's win over Kucera and Fritz in the championship match.
Unruh captured her third city doubles title and second with Sweeney and said the experience the duo has together is a key factor in their success.
"This is my first year ever having the same partner and the confidence we have in each other is so different than playing with somebody for one year,'' Unruh said.
"Not only are we great doubles partners, but we're very close outside of tennis,'' Sweeney said.
TOPEKA CITY GIRLS TENNIS TOURNAMENT
Washburn Rural 28, Seaman 23, Hayden 22, Topeka High 14, Shawnee Heights 14, Topeka West 11, Highland Park 2.
No. 1 -- Championship: Zulueta, Hayden, def. Wichman, Washburn Rural, 8-1. Consolation: Del-Zio, Seaman, def. Elkoubysi, Shawnee Heights 8-2.
No. 2 -- Championship: DiMarzio, Washburn Rural, def. Krumins, Seaman, 8-1. Consolation: Beall, Topeka High, def. Elliot, Topeka West, 8-5.
No. 1 -- Championship: Unruh/Sweeney, Seaman, def. Kucera/Fritz, Washburn Rural, 8-3. Consolation: Sheetz/Sandstrom, Hayden, def. Caryl/Carpenter, Topeka High, 8-7 (7-3).
No. 2 -- Championship: Beck/Schmutzler, Washburn Rural, def. Barnett/Sims, Hayden, 8-1. Consolation: Devena/Lejuerrne, Shawnee Heights, def. Keating/Shove, Seaman, 8-1.