Republic tennis advances to first Final Four

By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

Add another milestone to a record-setting season for the Republic High School girls’ tennis team.

Republic is final four bound after sweeping Glendale 5-0 in Monday’s Class 2 quarterfinal match. It’s the first time Republic has qualified for state as a program in either boys’ or girls’ tennis.

“I’ve only been playing for three years, so I never expected anything this big,” said Republic senior Sedalia Shumaker. “But to go (to state) with people I even hang out with outside of school – they’re my friends – it’s very important. I’m blessed.”

Republic has finished with 12 or more wins each season since 2016, including back-to-back district championships this season.

“Every year, we’ve just kept banging and banging but we’d hit a wall,” said Republic coach Dan Vales. “This year, we were finally able to climb over that wall and get there. We’re so excited as a team and as a program to reach that milestone.”

The Lady Tigers are also sending a record five qualifiers to this weekend’s individual championships at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.

On the team side, Republic will face St. Pius X (Kansas City) in a Class 2 semifinal match at Cooper on October 23. The winner plays in the Class 2 state finals Oct. 24.

“It’s going to be a whirlwind,” Vales said of the next two weeks. “It’ll be hard for the girls and us teachers to focus on school with so much tennis ahead.”

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE MATCH

Playing on its home courts, Republic took control early Monday with a clean sweep in doubles.

“The doubles matches boosted (our confidence) a lot,” Shumaker said. “It was a good team effort all around.”

Republic’s surging No. 3 doubles team of Abigail McCord and Wrigley Cook pulled out an 8-6 win over Glendale’s Lauren Hamm and Ann Beatty.

Vales said he found the right doubles team in McCord and Cook near the stretch run of Republic’s regular season.

“Around the Nixa Invitational, we found the team that we felt like could win a lot at that level,” Vales said. “They won the Nixa Tournament and they’ve been winning ever since.”

McCord and Cook’s only loss since then was to another Republic doubles team in a tournament.

The 5-0 outcome avenged Republic’s regular season loss to Glendale on Sept. 21. Republic was down its top player – junior Elsie Crawford – for that match.

Having her back strengthened Republic’s lineup for Monday’s playoff rematch.

“(Our players) knew it could change things a bit because it’s kind of a domino effect on who’s playing who,” Vales said. “But with that said, we knew this would be a daunting challenge. If we didn’t start fast in doubles, we were probably in for a long day.”

Republic needed that early edge as Glendale started to battle back in singles.

“(The final score) is a little deceiving, because all the singles matches were super close and (Glendale) was leading several,” Vales said. “It was a very competitive match.”

Looking ahead, Republic has plenty of experience on the Cooper courts, Vales said.

When MSHSAA expanded girls’ tennis to three Classes this fall, the Lady Tigers knew their chances of making state increased.

“We were anxious to see that district reseeding,” Vales said. “When it was announced we were in Class 2, we knew we had an opportunity – a chance – to make the final four if we played like we did today.”

Republic 5, Glendale 0

Doubles
(1) Crawford/Howard def. Huang/C. Stenger, 8-2
(2) Shumaker/Lewis def. Martino/Liggett, 8-5
(3) McCord/Cook def. Beatty/Hamm, 8-6

Singles
(2) Howard def. Martino, 6-1 and 6-1
(4) Shumaker def. Liggett, 6-2 and 6-3