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Hayden freshman Zulueta rolls to 4A singles title, Cats third as team

By RICK PETERSON

TopSports.news

Like most any high school tennis player who picks up a racket, Hayden freshman Ainzley Zulueta dreamed of winning a state championship some day.

But even Zulueta wasn't quite sure that title would come quite this early.

"I was hoping to get to state and win it, but I wasn't expecting myself to,'' Zulueta said in a phone interview. "I was just kind of setting a standard and hoping I could reach it.

"Winning it kind of feels surreal, so it feels really good right now.'' 

The Hayden phenom capped an impressive season and an even more impressive run through the Class 4A state tournament Saturday at Winfield's T.H. Vaughan Tennis Center, claiming the 4A singles title with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Bishop Miege freshman Breanna Quigley in the championship match.

Hayden freshman singles standout Ainzley Zulueta won the Class 4A state championship in her first state meet Saturday at Winfield. [Photo courtesy of Jeff Jacobsen/Action Images]Hayden freshman singles standout Ainzley Zulueta won the Class 4A state championship in her first state meet Saturday at Winfield. [Photo courtesy of Jeff Jacobsen/Action Images Photography]

Zulueta, who finished the season 35-5, said she fought her nerves both Friday and Saturday, but it didn't show, with Zulueta dropping just five games in her four matches at state.

"I was probably more nervous today, especially since it was the semifinals,'' she said. "I really wanted to prove myself and I think I did pretty well with that even though it was really cold so it was a bit tough, but I somehow got through it.''

Zulueta dropped an early-season match to Quigley, but came back to take decisive wins over the Miege standout the past two weeks in regional and state competition and said her familiarity with her opponent helped.

"It really did because I knew how to play her and I knew how to win,'' Zulueta said. "I just hit all the shots that I could that I knew could damage her.

"Playing her so many times before in the USTA tournaments also helped to bring up my confidence when playing her.''

Zulueta advanced to the final with a 6-0, 6-2 semifinal win over Wellington's Kami Reichenberger.

SheetzSandstromEmily Sheetz (left) and Lauren Sandstrom posted a seventh-place doubles finish in the Class 4A state tournament. [Submitted]

Hayden also got a seventh-place doubles finish from sophomore Lauren Sandstrom and freshman Emily Sheetz, with Sandstrom and Sheetz taking a 9-4 decision over Wellington's Ashlyn Gerten and Kadynce Aufdengarten in the seventh-place match.

HaydenteamHayden tied for second as a team and finished third on a tiebreaker in the Class 4A state tennis tournament. [Submitted]

Hayden tied for second as a team, taking home the third-place trophy on a tiebreaker.

McPherson won the team championship with 44 points, followed by Wellington and Hayden with 25.

"I got really excited when they said our name because it was kind of between a few teams for second and third,'' Zulueta said.

RURAL EIGHTH AS A TEAM IN 6A

Senior singles player Sheriden Wichman and junior doubles players Kate Fritz and Meredith Kucera posted ninth-place finishes Saturday at Wichita's Riverside Tennis Center to lead Washburn Rural to an eighth-place team finish in Class 6A.

Wichman, who earned her second state medal, took a 9-3 win over Shawnee Mission South's Livia Andriole in her final match while Fritz and Kucera took a 9-4 win over Garden City's Sage Riggs and Sydney Nanninga.

Topeka High's Adisyn Caryl and Haley Carpenter won a doubles match at state, but did not place.

Manhattan's Jillian Harkin won the 6A singles championship.

SHERER NINTH IN 3A-1A STATE MEET

Rossville junior Alivia Sherer placed ninth in singles in the Class 3A-1A state tournament Saturday at Maize South.

Sherer took a 9-8 (7-2 tiebreaker) victory over Marysville's Shea Kramer in the ninth-place match.

Sherer became the first girls state tennis medalist in Rossville history.