By Don Eskins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Springfield Catholic Fightin Irish, after losing two of three opening doubles matches, batttled back to grab four consecutive matches during singles play to defeat a very tough Kickapoo High School 5-2 to claim this year’s Class 3 District 5 Championship at Springfield Catholic High School on Wednesday.
It was a huge win for the Fightin Irish who had already earned a split in two previous meetings with Kickapoo this season.
“We knew Kickapoo was going to be tough to beat today. The last time we played them they beat us pretty bad,” said elated Martin VerSteeg, head coach for Catholic High. “So when we lost two doubles matches, as the district final got underway, I thought it was going to be an uphill battle for us to get the win.”
“But our singles girls really showed up big for us today. When it came to crunch time they dug down really deep and performed very well,” said VerSteeg. “They won today’s final with pure intestinal fortitude and I’m so proud of every one of them.”
Erin Jarvis, playing in the No. 1 slot for Catholic, said the Fightin Irish entered Wednesday’s district final with nothing but respect for their Kickapoo opponent.
“After losing to Kickapoo earlier this season we entered today’s final a little bit humbled,” said Jarvis. “In order to get the win today we knew we were going to have to put out our best performance of the season and that’s just what we did.”
Kickapoo dominated doubles play at the district final by winning two of three matches. Picking up wins for the Lady Chiefs were Esther Choe and Brynley Brotherton who topped Claire Griesemer and Jenna Swope 5-8 along with Ashley McCurry and Jadyn Wersinger who downed Elizabeth Tynes and Alexandria Hamilton 4-8.
Only Jarvis and Zabelle Baron, via an 8-3 victory over the Lady Chief’s Melissa Scott and Ava Billue, were able to muster a win for Springfield Catholic in doubles competition.
“We felt that if we could win all three doubles matches, or at least two of three, we’d be in great shape to win district. But that didn’t happen,” said Jarvis. “But we knew our singles matches were still winable. So after our break we simply regrouped, told each other to take care of business and then root for other members on our team who might still be playing.”
The Lady Irish’s philosophy worked as they took to the courts to rack up four consecutive wins to claim this year’s district title.
Grabbing singles victories for Catholic were: 1. Erin Jarvis def Esther Choe 6-1, 6-4; 2, Claire Griesemer def Brynley Brotherton 7-5, 6-3; 3. Jenna Swope def Melissa Scott 6-2, 6-4 and 4. Elizabeth Tynes def Jadyn Wersinger 6-0, 6-1.
Claire Griesemer’s victory over Brynley Brotherton closed out the match to give Catholic the 5-2 win.
“Winning my singles match to pick up our fifth point for the win today was great,” said Griesemer. “I knew my team was counting on me so I wanted to end the match as quickly as I could.”
“But Brynley was tough to beat, she’s such an amazing player,” said Griesemer. “We’ve been competing with each other for quite some time now so it was fun for me to be able to finish out my senior season here in Springfield playing with a friend.”
The loss was a difficult one for Kickapoo. But the Lady Chief’s effort didn’t go unnoticed.
“When we came out of doubles play, up 2-1, we looked really good. I felt we could gather in enough singles victories to get the win,” said Kickapoo head coach Eric Wilbur. “But you have to give Catholic credit. They did what they needed to do to win this year’s district crown.”
“It hurts to lose. But the hurt goes away when you begin to look back at the way our girls dug in with their hearts and souls in an effort to win this year’s final,” said the Kickapoo coach. “I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young ladies. This has been a great year for all of us.”
Up next for Catholic is a state quarterfinal match against Lee’s Summit West on Oct. 12.