MANTI After winning the South Region championship despite not placing first in any of the five events, the Templars didn't know what to expect headed into the 1A/2A girls state tennis tournament.
Bolstered by four semifinal finishes, Manti finished fourth overall.
"We knew we were going to have a tough time at state," Manti head coach Andy Naylor said. "We knew it was going to be challenging, but we also knew we weren't going to go up there and give up."
With only two seniors on the team, Manti had a mostly inexperienced squad headed into state. The two seniors the Templars are losing Lyndsay Masco at first singles and Stephanie Barton at first doubles were key contributors to this year's team, however.
Masco, a goal-oriented senior who plans on heading into the medical field and is currently getting her CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), made it to the semifinals before losing 6-0, 6-1 to eventual champion, St. Joseph juggernaut Lauren Jones.
"I was a little disappointed with the outcome of the score against Lauren," Masco said. "But afterwards her parents came up to me and told me that they appreciated that I gave her some good competition and that we had some good rallies, so that was nice."
Barton and first doubles partner Taylor Rosequist also made it to the semis before facing the eventual champions Rowland Hall duo Abby Bossart and Madeline Loughridge.
"Our first doubles have always been able to compete really well. At region, they got into a tight spot, getting second place, so, unfortunately, they had to play the state champs in the second round," Masco said.
In the other three events, the sophomore tandem of Jen Johnson and Meg Jenkins made it to the semis in second doubles, junior Nicole Garbe bowed out against eventual state champion Jessica Grey of Rowland Hall and sophomore Rachel Mitzvotai made it to the semis in second singles before being defeated by Jenn Mijer of St. Joseph. Mitzvotai was a particular revelation at state.
"It's always hard to lose your No. 1 (Masco), but at the same time, the girl who is playing No. 2 (Mitzvotai) is far and beyond where I thought she'd be," coach Naylor said. "If she continues to improve, she's going to be a force next year."
With five returners, the Templars have the potential to rebound next year with an even better showing at state. To compete for the championship, however, they need to work on more than just their skills on the court."Our main problem is that we lack confidence," Naylor said. "They get scared to death to play the private schools. If we can get over that hurdle, we should be stronger next year. If they all continue to improve, we'll be even better as a team."