Blues go 2-3 in wild 2-week span, fight through illness and weather

As spring begins to take over, the Washburn women’s tennis team had already began it’s spring schedule in full swing.

The Blues played five matches over a two-week span, going 2-3 overall. Their first matchup was against the No. 9-ranked Southwest Baptist Bearcats March 16 in Topeka. The Bearcats were too much for the Lady Blues, who lost 7-2. No. 4 singles senior Alyssa Castillo and No. 6 singles senior Kristen McKee were the only two to bring home wins.

“Alyssa and Kristen both stepped up,” said Washburn head tennis coach Dave Alden. “We were a person down (Whitley Zitsch) because of a family emergency.”

The next day, Washburn bounced back winning No. 1 doubles. The duo of Castillo and senior Jamie Blackim defeated Rachel Pierson and Alex Tran of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, 8-6. The other two doubles teams faltered dropping by matches. Senior Morgan Rainey defeated Tran 6-4, 1-6, 11-9 in No. 1 singles but No. 2 singles Sophie O’Neill fell 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 in three sets. Blackim and freshman Casyn Buchman also lost in No. 3 and No. 5 singles. Castillo won No. 4 singles and McKee grabbed No. 6 singles. Washburn just fell one match short, losing 5-4 in the team match.

“Against UNO, it was a matter of finishing matches,” said Alden.

Washburn’s next stop was Oklahoma City to play East Central University. The Blues had less troubles finishing matches as they were victorious 7-2. Rainey was the lone singles player to lose getting beat 6-2 in both sets in No. 1 singles. But No. 2 – No. 6 singles came away. No. 1 doubles of Blackim/Castillo also fell but No. 2 and No. 3 doubles picked up the slack winning their matches.

“We went down and played really well,” says Alden.

The next two matches were down the Lone Star State. The first match against Midwestern State University ended halfway through due to rain. In Dallas, Washburn could not pull off the upset against a tremendous Dallas Baptist team, falling 7-2. Casyn Buchman won her No. 5 match, about the only bright spot of the match.

“We’re different with her (Buchman),” said Alden. “It gives us a whole different level of depth.”

Washburn was not too discouraged. The Blues went on to defeat Cowley Community College March 27, but due to sickness, the Lady Blues succumbed to Rockhurst University.

“Never in my years of coaching have I had three players go down during a match,” says Alden.

Castillo/Blackim lost 8-5 in No. 1 doubles but Rainey/Zitsch won 8-5 in No. 2 doubles. Underclassman Buchman and O’Neill also won 8-5 in No. 3 doubles. But Rainey had to withdraw from her No. 1 singles match. McKee also retired in the second set of her singles match. Because of sickness and injury, Washburn lost 5-4 to Rockhurst despite strong matches by O’Neill and Buchman. O’Neill defeated Karsyn Betts 6-0, 6-2 in No. 2 singles and Buchman took care of business in No. 5 singles winning 6-4, 6-2.

The Blues ended their two-week schedule with MIAA-rival Fort Hays State University. Washburn came away from Hays with a 6-3 victory, improving to 5-7 overall and 2-1 in MIAA.

“Fort Hays has gotten a lot better,” saidAlden.

Once again, Blackim and Castillo failed to win in No. 1 doubles, but their teammates picked up the slack. The No. 2 doubles team of Rainey/Zitsch won 8-2, and Buchman/McKee won 8-3. The doubles teams had to shift around a bit as O’Neill became sick on the way to Hays.

Rainey also won her No. 1 singles match, winning both sets, 6-3. O’Neill battled through her illness and competed in No. 2 singles. She forced Brittney Ricci into three sets, but could not pull it out, losing 6-2, 0-6, 7-6 (9-7).

“Sophie O’Neill got sick on the trip up. We had to change doubles around,” said Alden. “But I think the girls responded nicely.”

Zitsch lost the No. 3 singles in three sets, but the bottom third of the singles teams all came with wins to secure the team win. Blackim and Castillo redeemed themselves, both winning their single matches. Blackim won 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) and Castillo won easily, 6-0, 6-1. Buchman again won her No. 5 singles match.

Because of weather forecasts, Washburn’s match against Emporia State University originally scheduled for April 4 has been rescheduled to April 10.