On a rainy, windy Friday the 13th, Chillicothe High School’s senior tennis duo Rylee Washburn and Isabella Garr hit the courts at Springfield’s Cooper Tennis Complex to compete in the state championship bracket comprised of the 16th best Class 1 doubles teams in Missouri. The 16-spot bracket is built through a hat draw since most of the teams never play each other head-to-head before that day. Chillicothe first had to face off against Higginsville’s Gillilan & Hoeffer who they had actually played once before at a tournament in mid-September. Rylee and Izzy dominated the entire match even after a long rain delay and dealing with strong winds the whole time as well. They won the first set 6-2 and the second set 6-0.
After a one hour mandatory rest, they then faced off against Clayton High School’s Sah & Nguyen. Clayton qualified all six of their varsity players for the individual tournament, which is the most possible for any team, and they have also already secured a spot in the Team State Tournament Final Four. CHS knew this would be their toughest match to date of this season. Chillicothe started off very strong going up 5-2 in the first set due to consistent hitting and a nervous looking Clayton pair. But then, Clayton hit their stride and started playing very aggressively at the net. Suddenly, Sah & Nguyen tied the match up at 5 games each. Washburn and Garr focused in on the two elements that were working best then and won the next two games in a row by hitting straight down the open alleys. This gave Chillicothe the first set win 7-5.
The second set proved just as back and forth as the first. Clayton started off winning the first game. Then the next several games went back and forth for each team. One highlight moment of the match happened in the middle of this set when Rylee Washburn dove so hard for a volley that she slid across the ground, hit the ball back over while completely horizontal, and then rolled over to pop up for the next shot. But after the set got to 3-2 in Chillicothe’s favor thanks to much better net play, Sah & Nguyen once again turned on their power forehands and overheads to win four straight games and take the second set win 3-6.
In Missouri postseason play, there is no third set. Instead, an instant 10-point championship tiebreak is played, so Chillicothe and Clayton moved into the tiebreak to decide the match. In these tense moments, Izzy came up with some clutch ace serves and some killer backhand shots. The lady hornet pair went up 3-0 quickly but then the points started going back and forth. But thanks to those crucial first few points, Rylee and Izzy were able to close out the tiebreak winning 10-6.
Washburn & Garr are only the third Chillicothe girls’ doubles pair to ever qualify for the MSHSAA Final Four. The last pair to accomplish this feat was Coach Lily Pyrtle and partner Jaimie Baker in 2008, and before that, it was Katie Stephens and Emily Robinson in 1996. The pair is now on an 18-0 win streak since September 16th when they had their last loss to Logan-Rogersville. They move to 38-9 on the season with two matches left to play on Saturday in the medal rounds. They play at 9 am in the semi-final round against the returning state champions from Kennett-Holcomb. Around noon, the pair will then play for either first or third place to finish off their high school careers.
Photo credits: MSHSAA Social Media Team