In front of teary-eyed parents and ecstatic coaches, seniors Rylee Washburn and Isabella Garr dominantly conquered their multi-year goal of becoming Midland Empire Conference Doubles Champions this Wednesday afternoon in St. Joseph. Overall, the entire Chillicothe girls’ tennis team played a strong day of tennis, especially the two doubles partnerships, but the icing on the cake were Washburn and Garr’s gold medals.
At the MEC championship tournament, there is no team component. Girls only play in singles or doubles, typically playing in the position they will play the following Saturday at Districts. Washburn and Garr played Doubles as usual while Bianca Clark and Keeley Shira played doubles as well. In Singles, Bryton BeVelle and Micah Crowe both represented Chillicothe. To begin the day, BeVelle and Crowe faced tough brackets as they typically play the #3 and #4 positions for Chillicothe but were facing many schools’ #1 or #2 players in this showdown. Thankfully, both girls started the day off with a solid win to advance to the Quarterfinals. However, both girls then faced seeded opponents in that second round, where they eventually lost and moved over to the consolation bracket. In those battle-back rounds, Crowe first faced the eventual 5th place medalist; in that match, Crowe played fantastic tennis but her opponent still came out victorious. When BeVelle began consolation play, she was able to grab another win over Maryville to move her one step closer to the 5th place match. Yet, she fell just one match short when she lost to Savannah next.
Clark and Shira proved to be a source of constant surprises and excitement on the day. While some teams underestimated them because they were Chillicothe’s lower seeded doubles pair, they quickly learned that Clark and Shira were out for blood. The two had a terrible draw in the bracket facing off against the #1 seeded doubles pair in the first match of the day, where they lost quickly. However, slowly but surely, the partnership battled back match by match to eventually earn their way all the way back to the 5th place medal match. To get there, Clark and Shira had to win three straight matches in a do-or-die format. And they did just that. In Consolation, they first conquered a Cameron pair. Then, in quite the upset, they beat the Savannah pair who had beaten them three other times this season. Finally, they beat a Maryville pair. In the 5th place medal match, they played Benton’s #1 doubles team. Chillicothe started up 3-0, even as the underdogs, but then Benton really stepped up and powered through the rest of the match winning eight of the next nine games, causing Chillicothe to lose that final match 4-8. Coach Chambers and Coach Pyrtle were beyond ecstatic for this partnership as they ended up 6th out of 16 very tough MEC doubles teams. They beat all seven other #2 pairs present and even three schools’ #1 pairs. The coaches cannot wait to see how this partnership continues to blossom at districts and beyond.
In the end, though, the day truly belonged to Rylee and Isabella, who are Chillicothe’s first girls’ tennis MEC Champions in four years. The last pair to achieve this feat was Keithley and Zimmerman in 2019. Washburn and Garr went 4-0 on the day, never even dropping a set and never going to a tiebreak. They played dominant, confident tennis. Coach Chambers said this is the best this partnership has ever looked, and they are hitting their peak at just the right time as we step into districts in just three days. First up, this pair beat Maryville’s #2 doubles quickly and decisively. Next, they easily beat Benton’s #1 pair who later went on to beat Clark and Shira for 5th place. In the semi-finals, Rylee and Izzy started slowly going down 0-3 in the first set to Savannah’s #1 pair (who they are 1-1 against this season). But after a clear mental reset and new game plan with Coach Pyrtle at the fence during the changeover, the girls turned it around and won six of the next seven games to take the first set. In the second set, they much more clearly dominated and won the match. Finally, the partnership faced the tournament’s #1 seed, St. Pius’ #1 doubles pair, for the championship match. While there were really good, long points with impressive hitting from both sides, Washburn and Garr simply commanded the court the entire championship match, winning both sets quite clearly.
These six players will now compete in individual districts on Saturday morning in Trenton in order to earn a trip to Sectionals in the State competition.