By RICK PETERSON
After winning the city championship last week, Washburn Rural's depth paid off again Monday, with the Junior Blues adding the Centennial League team championship at Kossover Tennis Center.
Brad Johnston's Junior Blues notched four top-three finishes en route to winning the team championship by a 42-26 margin over Manhattan and Emporia, who tied for second.
"We had a few slipups and it's king of hard playing your own team in the semifinals (singles and doubles) so we started kind of slow in the third round for third place, but they fought back and won,'' Johnston said. "Going back to city, our depth just comes through.
"When you can have your whole team in the semifinals it really changes the team score.''
Rural got second and third-place finshes in both singles and doubles, with junior Carolina Chedzoy and senior Mena DiMarzio going two-three in singles and juniors Emerie Catlin and Izzy Haggard and seniors Claire Ireland and Gabby Martinez finishing two-three in doubles.
It added up to Washburn Rural's 14th Centennial League team championship since 2004, with the Junior Blues returning to the throne after coming up short to Manhattan in the 2022 league meet.
Coming off a tough three-set loss to Seaman's Katie Krumins and Molly Gorman in the city meet, Hayden senior Lauren Sandstrom and junior Emily Sheetz, the defending Class 4A state doubles champions, bounced back to claim the league doubles championship with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Rural's Catlin and Haggard in the title match.
"It defniitely gave us a lot of motivation coming into this,'' Sandstrom said of the loss at city. "Unfortunately, Seaman's not in our league anymore because we definitely would have wanted that rematch, but we were really excited to play Washburn and going into that championship match we definitely wanted to win after that city loss. We were just like, 'We've got to have it.' ''
"That (the city loss) gave me a lot of motivation today to stay positive and everything will turn out the way you want it to,'' Sheetz said. "Everything was working and I think Lauren and I played the best that we've played all season, so I'm happy about that.''
Emporia's Kali Keough won the singles championship with a 4-6, 6-2, 10-6 win over Rural's Chedzoy while Di Marzio finished third with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Hayden's Grace Funk.
Hayden finished fourth as a team, just a point behind Manhattan and Emporia in the battle for second.
Topeka High finished fifth as a team, led by a fifth-place doubles finish from Siena Boiteau and Ava Ritter.
Washburn Rural, a regional champ in '22, and Topeka High will both compete in a Class 6A regional tournament Saturday in Wichita.
"I feel really comfortable with this team going into regionals,'' Johnston said. "We just hope and pray nobody gets sick or hurt in the next few days before we head down there on Friday night.''
Hayden, the defending 4A state team champ, will be back at Kossover for a 4A regional Saturday.
CENTENNIAL LEAGUE GIRLS TENNIS
At Kossover Tennis Center
Washburn Rural 42, Manhattan 26, Emporia 26, Hayden 25, Topeka High 20, Junction City 17.
Championship -- Keough, Emporia, def. Chedzoy, Washburn Rural, 4-6, 6-2, 10-6.
Third -- Di Marzio, Washburn Rural, def. Funk, Hayden, 6-0, 6-1.
Fifth -- Schartz, Manhattan, def. Micheel, Junction City, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.
Championship -- Sheetz/Sandstrom, Hayden, def. Catlin/Haggard, Washburn Rural, 6-1, 6-1.
Third -- Ireland/Martinez, Washburn Rural, def. Wollenberg/Turner, Manhattan, 4-6, 6-0, 10-3.
Fifth -- Boiteau/Ritter, Topeka High, def. Chanley/Hines, Emporia, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).