By RICK PETERSON
Washburn Rural's girls tennis team claimed 12 of the first 14 Centennial League championships after the league expanded to 10 schools in 2004, including an eight-year title run.
But Manhattan had reigned supreme the past three seasons before Rural re-claimed the top spot Monday with a solid team effort at Kossover Tennis Center.
Manhattan junior Jill Harkin won the singles title and Seaman senior Grace Unruh and junior Lauren Sweeney continued their perfect season in doubles, but the Junior Blues rode their balance to the team win, with Rural placing all four entries in the top five places.
Washburn Rural's doubles teams of Kate Fritz and Meredith Kucera and Hailey Beck and Shelby Schmutzler posted second and third-place league finishes while Rural's Sheriden Wichman placed third and Mena DiMarzio fifth as the Junior Blues won the team title by an 86-79 margin over Manhattan.
"It's just a real solid team overall and it was a good team effort,'' Rural coach Kevin Hedberg said. "I'm really, really pleased with them. It was a good day.
"We know there are some much tougher situations coming, but we're going to enjoy tonight. Winning the league is a nice thing to do.''
Seaman's Unruh and Sweeney won their second straight league doubles championship, rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the final to improve to 29-0 on the season with an 8-3 win over Fritz and Kucera.
"I think there were some nerves, feeling a little pressure,'' Unruh said of Seaman's slow start against Rural. "They hit some good shots that we couldn't do anything about, but we're always talking and always trying to bring that energy and I think those first two games we weren't bringing the energy, but then we kind of turned it around.''
Sweeney admitted that there's a certain amount of pressure that comes with every tournament, but said that she and Unruh try to put those thoughts aside.
"There's alway pressure no matter what,'' Sweeney said. "It's just we've got to do what we have to do. I tell Grace all the time, 'Let's just play our game.' ''
The singles final pitted the reigning league champion, Harkin, against Hayden freshman Ainzley Zulueta, the city singles champ, and Zulueta held her own early before Harkin pulled away for an 8-3 win.
Seaman finished third as a team with 75 points, with Nina Del-Zio adding a fourth-place finish in singles. Del-Zio dropped an 8-1 decision to Wichman in the third-place match.
Beck and Schmutzler lost to Rural teammates Fritz and Kucera in the semifinals before bouncing back to to finish third with an 8-3 win over Topeka High's Adisyn Caryl and Haley Carpenter.
City schools will compete in regional tournaments this weekend, vying for state tournament berths, with Class 6A and 4A regionals at Kossover and Seaman hosting a 5A regional.
The 6A tournament will be held on Friday and Saturday while the 5A and 4A regionals will be contested on Saturday.
CENTENNIAL LEAGUE GIRLS TENNIS
Washburn Rural 86, Manhattan 79, Seaman 75, Hayden 61, Topeka High 48, Emporia 46, Junction City 46, Topeka West 39, Highland Park 8.
Championship -- Harkin, Manhattan, def. Zulueta, Hayden, 8-3.
Third -- Wichman, Washburn Rural, def. Del-Zio, Seaman, 8-3.
Fifth -- DeMarzio, Washburn Rural, winner by inj. default over Wiens, Manhattan.
Championship -- Unruh/Sweeney, Seaman def. Fritz/Kucera, Washburn Rural, 8-3.
Third -- Beck/Schmutzler, Washburn Rural, def. Caryl/Carpenter, Topeka High, 8-3.
Fifth -- Loub/Bahr, Manhattan, def. Sheetz/Sandstrom, Hayden, 8-6.