By RICK PETERSON
Seaman's Grace Unruh and Lauren Sweeney turned in an outstanding 2020 high school tennis season, sweeping city, Centennial League and regional championships before advancing to the Class 5A state semifinals.
But it's the two losses that the Viking stars took to end the year that has helped drive Unruh and Sweeney to a perfect 32-0 record this fall entering Friday and Saturday's state tournament at Emporia High School.
"We wanted to get first last year obviously, like who doesn't?'' said Unruh, a senior. "But we kind of settled with where we were at and this year there's no settling.''
Sweeney, a junior, agreed.
"I think we were just happy that we made it to that day last year,'' Sweeney said. "Now first is what we're shooting for.''
In the 2020 state meet Unruh and Sweeney dropped a 6-2, 6-4 semifinal decision to eventual state champs Emma and Sarah Sinclair of Andover before falling to Iliana Armbrust and Alexxa Nunemaker of Salina South in the third-place match, 6-3, 6-2, to finish fourth.
As painful as those losses were, Sweeney and Unruh think they were good training for this weekend.
"I think we are where we are supposed to be,'' Sweeney said. "I think knowing what is there at state and what to expect this year helps and we know we can compete.''
"Last year we knew what we were capable of and we didn't quite meet that goal but to know that we were so close last year and all the work that we've put in the past year, we're rolling, we're ready for it.''
The Vikings are coming off a banner regional performance, with Seaman sweeping the singles, doubles and team championships on its home courts.
Seaman junior Nina Del-Zio (25-9) and sophomore Katie Krumins (24-11) finished 1-2 in singles in the regional tournament to punch their tickets to state, which will get under way at 10:30 a.m. Friday and continue at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Shawnee Heights finished second as a team at regionals, qualifying senior Laura El-Koubysi (16-10) in singles and the doubles teams of seniors Paige Devena and Bella LeJuerne (20-10) and sophomore Ariah Durkes and senior Shelby Elskamp (11-16) for state.
El Koubysi finished fifth in the Seaman regional while Devena and LeJuerne were third and Durkes and Elskamp sixth.
Topeka West will be represented in the state tournament by senior singles player Anna Newcome (15-16), who placed third in the Seaman regional.
Washburn Rural, which has not lost a competition this season, captured the team championship in last weekend's 6A regional at Kossover Tennis Center while qualifying its entire team for the state tournament at Wichita's Riverside Tennis Center.
Juniors Kate Fritz and Meredith Kucera (22-4) won the regional doubles title with a win over Rural teammates Hailey Beck, a junior, and senior Shelby Schmutzler (24-2) in the championship match.
The city, Centennial League and regional team champs also got a runner-up regional finish in singles from senior four-time state qualifier Sheriden Wichman and a third-place finish from sophomore Mena DiMarzio. Wichman is 25-4 on the season while DeMarzio is 16-5.
Topeka High will take both its doubles teams to state, with juniors Adisyn Caryl and Haley Carpenter (22-7) posting a fourth-place finish in the regional tournament while senior Mary Dietrick and sophomore McCall Beall (12-4) took sixth.
Hayden will be well-represented in the 4A state meet at the T.H. Vaughan Tennis Center in Winfield, with the Wildcats qualifying five competitors for state.
Freshman Ainzley Zulueta rolled to the singles title in last Saturday's regional at Kossover Tennis Center while sophomore Lauren Sandstrom and freshman Emily Sheetz took the doubles championship.
Zulueta will take a 31-5 record to the state meet while Sandstrom and Sheetz are 22-6 on the year.
The Wildcats also qualified the third-place doubles team of juniors Briahna Barnett and Sloane Sims, who are 20-13 this fall.
Junior Alivia Sherer will represent Rossville in the 3A-1A state tournament at Maize South after posting a third-place singles finish in last weekend's Hillsboro regional.
Sherer, who played as a co-op player for Hayden during the regular season, has 21-6 record this season.
SHAWNEE COUNTY STATE QUALIFIERS
Class 6A at Wichita
Topeka High -- Doubles: Adisyn Caryl, jr., and Haley Carpenter, jr., 22-7; Mary Dietrick, sr., and McCall Beall, so., 12-4.
Washburn Rural -- Singles: Sheriden Wichman, sr., 25-4; Mena DiMarzio, so., 16-5. Doubles: Kate Fritz, jr., and Meredith Kucera, jr., 22-4; Hailey Beck, jr., and Shelby Schmutzler, sr., 24-2.
Class 5A at Emporia
Seaman -- Singles: Nina Del-Zio, jr., 25-9; Katie Krumins, so., 24-11. Doubles: Grace Unruh, sr., and Lauren Sweeney, jr., 32-0.
Shawnee Heights -- Singles: Laura El-Koubysi, sr., 16-10. Doubles: Paige Devena, sr., and Bella LeJuerne, sr., 20-10; Ariah Durkes, so., and Shelby Elskamp, sr., 11-16.
Topeka West -- Singles: Anna Newcome, sr., 15-16.
Class 4A at Winfield
Hayden -- Singles: Ainzley Zulueta, fr., 31-5. Doubles: Lauren Sandstrom, so., and Emily Sheetz, fr., 22-6; Briahna Barnett, jr., and Sloane Sims, jr., 20-13.
Class 3A-1A at Maize South
Rossville -- Singles: Alivia Sherer, jr., 21-6.