After 27 matches, Flagstaff HS girls tennis finally falls

Perhaps it just got to be a little too easy for the Flagstaff High School girls tennis team.

The Lady Eagles have given the folks up in the north country something to talk about the last couple of years.  Theirs is a rags-to-riches story, of sorts.

Four years ago, the girls tennis team struggled with players who hadn’t honed their skills in off-season work.  Most were still learning the game, and none knew enough basics to even keep score.

Last year, an undefeated 2010 team won 16 regular-season matches in a row in the 4A Grand Canyon Region and made it to the state championship game before falling to perennial power, Notre Dame Prep from down the hill in north Scottsdale.

They lost seven seniors from that squad, but somehow kept the streak alive into this season.  It ran out to 27 matches before Prescott High School put an end to it with a 6-3 victory yesterday afternoon.

And to make matters worse, the loss came on Flag’s home court.

In the singles play, Prescott got wins from Lexi Rindone, its No. 1 singles player, and Lucia Morvay, Jessica Cross, and Kirsi Eby.  Rindone and Morvay, the No. 1 doubles team, took another win in doubles play, and then Cross joined with Analise Cavner to get the other doubles victory.

In a way, you could kinda see it coming.

Flagstaff rolled through its first 11 matches this year, winning by scores of either 8-1 or 9-0.  There were six shutouts included in that campaign.

They beat Page High School for their 10th win in a no-sweat 8-1 victory, but then struggled in a repeat match five days later, winning again, but going 6-3 for the first time all year.

And then came the much-anticipated match with Prescott, which had lost just two times all season, both to Sunnyslope High School, once in the first match of the season and the other in the middle of the schedule.  They were coming into the match with Flag on a six-game win streak, the two most recent matches being shut-outs of Glendale High and Apollo High.

The Flagstaff head coach, Greg Kleiner, is the one who engineered the turnaround in the program, coming on board four years ago.

This year was supposed to be a rebuilding year, after losing such a large crop of seniors.  But he got along just fine.

He found athletes who could step up, like Kayla Bayer and Kirsten Steinke, both juniors who were part of the school’s championship soccer team.  They also both play volleyball.

Steinke teams with sophomore Aubrey Danks to form the Eagles’ No. 1 doubles team.

Next year, this young team of four freshman, four sophomores, and four juniors will be seasoned and ready to begin a new win streak.

But right now they have to re-gain their focus in a final regular-season match this afternoon with a Flagstaff 1A team, Northland Prep, on the opponent’s courts.

Then they begin that climb again through the state tournament, hoping for a better final result this year.