BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The FMHS girls tennis team is winning key match ups and excelling in doubles work as they continue their winning ways this year.
The Hounds hosted a six-team invitational on Saturday and came away with the title as they capitalized on three runners up with two singles and doubles second-place finishes.
The invite scoring gave four points to each first-place finish for each school, with 2nd, 3rd and 4th receiving three, two, and one point, respectively.
The Hounds got 2nd place finishes from Katie Larson at No. 1 singles and Hope Gray at No. 2 singles. Kearstyn Johnson and Larissa Ferrill took 2nd in No. 1 doubles, while Mercedee Doty and Charissa Smith took fourth place in No. 2 doubles.
Larson came up against 2016 state runner-up Anatta Charoenkul in the championship match at No. 1 singles and took the first game off her. But after sizing up Larson a bit and some long rallies in the first and second games, Charoenkul was able to pull away for an 8-1 win.
“The girl Larson lost to was state runner up last year,” said Head Coach Amy Doherty. “She is super good and Katie loves to have the opportunity to play her because it helps her to improve.”
Larson advanced with an 8-4 win over Mt. Pleasant’s Thuan Tran 8-4, and then slid easily by Deepika Vempathi of Fairfield Maharishi 8-0 to face off against Charoenkul. Larson was the only player to take a game off the Fairfield standout.
At No. 2 singles Hope Gray had gotten past Mt. Pleasant’s Quinn Whaley 8-2 in her first match and then rolled past Brigit Bianco of Maharishi 8-1 before running up against Fairfield’s Dayna Price and falling 8-6 for 2nd place.
“Hope looked well, too. She was pretty evenly matched to Price and put up a good fight.”
Johnson and Ferrill received a bye in the first-round and then faced Maharishi’s Bridget Emmanuel and Bhavani Allison. The two went back and forth through the first four games but ended up running away in the end for an 8-3 win to send them to the finals. Keokuk’s Madison Etter and Allie Brookhart proved to be too much and took the title after a drawn out match, 8-6.
“Larissa and Kearstyn had tough competition in the Keokuk team and hung in there really well. They are really developing strongly as a team,” Doherty said.
The team point totals for the day were Fort Madison 10, Fairfield and Keokuk tied with 8, West Burlington/Notre Dame had 7, Fairfield Maharishi had 4 and Mt. Pleasant finished with 3.
The Lady Hounds travel to Keokuk for a dual meet on Monday with matches beginning at 4:30 p.m.