It was deja vu all over again for senior Lexie Woodman, sophomore Ellie Choate and senior Shannon Sims for the St. Joseph’s Academy Angels.
The pair of Woodman and Choate again played another duo of Angels, Sims and newcomer sophomore Morgan McKinnis for the Class 2 state doubles championship at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.
Woodman and Choate repeated as state champions with a 6-2, 6-2 victory.
“Repeats are always a challenge, so I was happy for Lexie and Ellie but also happy for Shannon and Morgan to have made it to the final,” St. Joseph’s coach Doug Smith said.
Choate and Woodman were ready for state, Smith said.
“They were eager to play but were wary of the Rock Bridge duo, which included last year’s state singles champion (Mary Hose) and thus looked to be their main impediment in their march to the final,” Smith said.
In their opening match, Woodman and Choate beat Kickapoo’s Ester Choe and Brynley Brotherton 6-0, 6-0. It was a good first match for them, Smith said.
“Dashing out of the starting blocks, they looked every bit like the defending state doubles champions that they were,” Smith said. “Kickapoo were no match for them.”
Then came their match everyone wanted to see in the quarterfinals. The two Angels met the Rock Bridge duo of Corinne Farid and Hose.
Woodman and Choate prevailed in winning a three-set thriller 3-6, 6-3, 10-8.
“That was the biggie, the match which knowledgeable tennis folks felt was akin to a final,” Smith said. “As Lexie and Ellie did last year, they again rose to the occasion and in another nip and tuck thriller knocked off the Bruins’ top doubles team composed of their No. 1 and No. 2 singles players.
“The match was reminiscent of last year’s semifinal match against a different Rock Bridge doubles team, and the Angels replicated their 2018 comeback and punctuated it with a thrilling third-set tie-break squeaker.”
Smith said the two Angels showed their mettle by overcoming the loss in the first set to come back and win.
“By hanging in there and fighting back, just like last year, Lexie and Ellie showed their championship colors and opened the door to another title,” Smith said.
In the semifinals, they beat Meredith Mason and Ellen Mason, of St. Teresa’s Academy, 6-1, 6-2.
“The Mason sisters were the Stars’ No. 2 doubles team, so they were up against it and the Angels never let them get a foothold,” Smith said.
While Woodman and Choate were taking care of business, so were the other two St. Joseph’s players.
McKinnis and Sims opened with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Vivien Hamilton and Chloe Norris, of Park Hill South.
“Morgan and Shannon had played together quite a bit this season and were meshing nicely as they began the postseason run,” Smith said. “This match was kind of a routine performance in which they were never really threatened.”
In the quarterfinals, they scored a 6-3, 6-3 win over Springfield Central’s Evelyn VanDenBerg and Madeleine Fulk.
“The Springfield duo consisted of the Bulldogs’ No. 1 and No. 2 singles players whereas Morgan and Shannon played No. 4 and No. 5 on the Angels,” Smith said. “The Springfield girls came out strong in commanding the net almost at will and frequently outplaying St. Joe when the Angels got into close-quarter volley exchanges.
“In response, Shannon and Morgan resorted to adopting the defensive position of both staying back and daring the Bulldogs to beat them with overhead smashes. The strategic adjustment worked.”
In the semifinals, the McKinnis-Sims pair outlasted Parkway Central’s Michelle Korenfeld and Akansha Negi 6-0, 2-6, 10-7.
“Against Parkway Central, the girls rolled through the first set only to see the Colts come roaring back in the second to send the contest to a match tiebreaker, which was tired at 6-6 before the Angels pulled away for a 10-7 victory,” Smith said. “As such, it was a match that could have gone either way, but this whole season the Angels have played a lot of tiebreakers and won a high percentage of them.”
That win set up an all Angels in the finals just like last year.
“This had been the goal for all four, and to remain impartial, I said nothing to them except to wish them all a good match,” Smith said.
To have two doubles teams play for the championship is unusual, Smith said.
“I’ve had two Angels meet in the singles final before, but I think these last two years may be the only times that two Angels doubles teams have played each other for the state title,” Smith said.
The defending champs beat their teammates 6-2, 6-2.
“The final had good points aplenty and probably looked to any spectator not keeping score like a closer match than 6-2, 6-2,” Smith said. “At the end, instead of the traditional handshake, they all four exchanged friendly hugs.”
With two of the four girls graduating, might Smith be inclined to pair the remaining two Angels for next season?
“There will definitely be a wait-and-see matter for next year,” Smith said.