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Reflections on state tennis tournament

POSTED: October 19, 2012 1:00 a.m.

Gary "The Wizard" Bittner, head coach of the Central Plains Lady Oilers tennis team.

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Editor’s note: As the short girls’ tennis season came to an end, it was obvious that 2012 had been a special year for Ellsworth County tennis.

                The Lady Oilers of Central Plains began the season ranked fifth in the ever-tough 3A-2A-1A division and the Lady Bearcats of Ellsworth were noted as a ‘team to watch’ in the Kansas Tennis Coaches Association polls.

                By the end of the season, Central Plains won the regional meet Oct. 5-6 in Russell with Ellsworth just a point away from second place and placing third.

                The Oct. 12-13 state meet in Hutchinson was delayed by much-needed rain and the Lady O’s placed second as a team and Ellsworth placed fourth by the end of the tournament, Monday Oct. 15.

                As with the spring 2012 boys’ seasons, parents and fans of both the Bearcat and Oilers supported each other’s teams as they competed — augmenting the “tennis family” philosophy that both Central Plains head coach Gary Bittner and Ellsworth head coach Eric Anderson espouse. Both fan bases are to be commended for their sportsmanlike conduct during the season.

I usually ask for comments from the coaches and did so following the state tournament. Both gentlemen returned great statements concerning the season. The Independent-Reporter goes to press on Tuesdays, so the delay (and available space) only allowed me to use snippets of their reflections.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. ~ MMc


Lady Oilers 2012

By Gary Bittner

Once the 2011 state tournament had concluded the Lady Oilers tennis squad immediately set their focus on 2012. We knew that we had everyone returning from the previous season. We thought if we worked hard in the off-season, good things would happen to us in 2012.

With hard work and dedication, the Lady Oilers dreams were realized at the state event this season.

The four seniors did an outstanding job of leading their teammates. Janae Hekele, Katie Hipp, Aubrey Kempke and Alice Radenburg were wonderful to work with. Every day they came to practice with a positive attitude and a desire to improve their skills.

The senior doubles team of Janae Hekele and Katie Hipp only lost two matches all season, one for the championship and the other to the eventual 4A champions during regular season play.

This forced the younger players to help reach their full potential. I can’t thank them enough for everything that they did to help make our season a successful one.

We played our best tennis of the year at the state tournament. I couldn’t have asked for a better performance by my players and I was very proud of them.

For the players that are returning in the 2013 season, we can only ask for help. We had eight girls on the team this season and with the loss of the four seniors, our numbers are down to four players.

This was the first state tennis trophy since 2005 and the first for the school as Central Plains High School. We were always in the hunt previously but came up short. It was nice to be back on the podium.



Lady Bearcats 2012

By Eric Anderson

I was very happy about our season, as the girls tennis team ended up placing in the top four teams in all of our varsity tennis meets this season. Placing fourth as a team at the 3A-2A-1A State Tennis Tournament was very nice and is the highest team finish of any Ellsworth High School girls’ tennis team in the history of EHS girls’ tennis. Overall, between both girls and boys tennis, it is the highest a EHS tennis team has placed since the 1992 boys team (Chad Davis, Eric Reid, Matt Mikulecky, and Chris Reid) placed third.

So, for these three young ladies, this is quite an accomplishment given EHS’s rich tennis history. I wish we could have brought home some “hardware” from state this past weekend, but that will give us something to work towards next year.

 I was very, very proud of Rachel, Julia, and Ashley this past weekend. They really played well and showed everyone from around the state that they are both quality tennis players and quality people. They worked so hard all season long, they came together as a family, and really made this season a very special one.

Rachel’s third place finish was the highest a girls’ singles player from EHS has placed since Claire Stroede placed second in 1991.

As for Julia and Ashley, their 11th place finish was the highest a girls’ doubles team from EHS has placed since Serena Brady and Samantha Hoffman placed ninth in 2001. Also, with Julia medaling yesterday she joins her mother as a EHS state tennis player who also medaled at state (Jan Hood placed first in doubles in 1981 and fourth in singles in 1982).

The biggest compliment that I can give these young ladies is that they “never quit” — no matter what the circumstances were. There were plenty of times during games or matches all season that they could have tossed in the towel and gave up, but all three found ways to come back in games or matches to win. Several coaches at regionals and again at state came to that same conclusion – they just never gave up on anything.

For me, that means a lot — because we talk about it daily at practice and I hope that they see how it relates to not only to tennis, but to life. You never give up, you keep trying, and you never know what might happen in the end.

I also want to add that I am very happy for the Central Plains tennis team and their second Place team finish. They are coached by a great person in Coach Bittner and are a bunch of quality young ladies.

I think that it was pretty awesome how each team and community members (EHS and Central Plains) cheered for each other throughout the tournament. It was also pretty neat that two of the top four teams at the 3A-2A-1A state tournament are within 20 miles of one another in the middle of Kansas.


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