BY JIM MISUNAS
CLAFLIN — Central Plains Oiler Emily Ryan has sharpened her tennis game, preparing for her final chapter.
Ryan lost 6-4, 6-3 in last year’s state championship to Kansas City Christian’s Emily McNeill for the second consecutive year. The two-time 3-1A state tennis runner-up competes at Phillipsburg Friday and Saturday in 3-1A regionals.
Ryan (24-0) has lost five games in 24 singles matches. She’s finished fifth (29-6), second (32-3) and second (33-1) at state for a 118-10 singles record.
Ryan broke McNeill’s service four times in last year’s championship match. Ryan dictated the tempo and hit winners at the net for a 4-0 lead, but lost when McNeill broke her service three times in each set.
Central Plains coach Gary Bittner believes Ryan’s improved serve gives her an offensive advantage.
“Emily’s serve has developed into a weapon because she’s picked up the speed,” Bittner said. “Overall, Emily has picked the pace on her groundstrokes. Her movement on the court is exceptional. She’s done her best to put herself in position to contend for a championship.”
Ryan believes she’s made subtle improvement.
“I like serving, which should be the same every time,” she said. “You control the serve because it doesn’t matter what the opponent does. I’ve gotten more consistent on my groundstrokes.”
She credits her younger brother Payton for helping her fine her practice skills.
“Hitting with my younger brother Payton has been a huge help because he works me really hard,” she said. “It gives me a lot of reps. It’s been really nice to have him help me.”
Ryan has the inner belief she will challenge McNeill for the state championship.
“I go into every match with the mindset that I’m going to win. Otherwise, you’re cheating yourself,” she said. “Every time I hit the court, I’ll play my best and see what happens.”
Joining Ryan at the Phillipsburg regional will be Ashlyn Armstrong 2-12; Bryanna Hammeke-Kyla Metro 24-4 and Jennah Jeffrey-Zoe Potter, 22-6.
5A SALINA CENTRAL (Saturday)—Great Bend, Hays High, Maize High, McPherson, Newton, Salina Central, Salina South, Valley Center; GREAT BEND—Remi Ingram 19-15; Anna Popp 21-9; Alexis Folkerts-Abbie Moyers 23-7; Madison Huslig-Mya Ward 15-15
3-1A MEADE (Friday-Saturday)—Ashland, Cimarron, South Central, Ellinwood, Kiowa County, Larned, Lyons, Meade, Minneola, Scott City, St. John, Greeley County; LARNED—Audrey Manry 19-8; Kathryn Holt 14-10; Ava Mull-Ella McNett 19-6; Corrie Upson-Ruthie Webster 9-15; ELLINWOOD—Madison Schloctermeier 4-3, Wittney Hammeke 4-4, Daphne Doll 1-3; Monica Hammeke 1-7; Monica Hammeke-Taryn Robl 13-10; Wittney Hammeke-Robl 4-4; Doll-Schloctermeier 6-15
PHILLIPSBURG (Friday-Saturday)—Beloit, Central Plains, Colby, Ellsworth, Goodland, Hoisington, Norton, Osborne, Phillipsburg, Russell, Victoria, WaKeeney Trego; CENTRAL PLAINS—Emily Ryan 24-0; Ashlyn Armstrong 2-12; Bryanna Hammeke-Kyla Metro 24-4; Jennah Jeffrey-Zoe Potter, 22-6; HOISINGTON—Audrie Harms 3-16; Tessa Fry 10-15; Brooke Steinert-Kelsi Dalton 12-11; Samantha Colson-Isabelle Gonzalez, 10-13