For the most part, Iliana Armbrust and Alexxa Nunemaker simply took care of business Saturday on their run through the doubles bracket at the Salina Central Invitational.
But when they needed to raise their game in the finals, they found another gear.
“When McPherson started gaining points on us and it almost went to a tiebreaker, we were able to finish points,” said Armbrust, who along with Nunemaker helped Salina South to a second-place team finish by edging McPherson’s CeAnna Allen and Perrin Schneider, 8-6, in the finals. “We were able to finish it off.
“I’m very happy with the way we played. We worked really hard in the final match for first place. We played really well against McPherson to beat both of their doubles teams.”
McPherson, with runner-up finishes in both singles and doubles, claimed the team championship with 61 points, while South was second with 56 and host Salina Central third at 49. Central’s Callie Sanborn was the singles champion, beating McPherson’s Patty Huerta, 8-3, in the finals.
In doubles, Armbrust, a junior, and senior partner Nunemaker, have dropped just one match this season and have their sights set on besting their ninth-place finish of last year in the Class 5A state tournament.
“I think we definitely wee on today,” Nunemaker said. “We were hitting the strokes we needed to and just kept upbeat the whole meet and didn’t slack off if we got ahead.
“We were really into it and eager to win.”
So where does that put them in the chase for postseason success?
“We’ve definitely raised our game a lot this year,” Armbrust said. “We’re hoping to place in the top five and maybe even higher.”
Nunemaker definitely is thinking higher.
“I personally think Ilia and I could take state this year or at least be in the top three,” she said.
Nunemaker and Armbrust dropped just one game total in their first two matches, then knocked off McPherson’s Maddie Dobson and Taylor Berger, 8-4, in the semifinals. South’s second doubles team of Lizzy Franco and Katen Putman played for fifth place, but had to default because of injury after falling behind 3-0. For Central, Reagan Geihsler and Mackenzie Nutter finished seventh.
In singles, Sanborn breezed through her bracket, dropping just one game on her way to the final, where she still won handily against Huerta.
“I thought I played really well,” said Sanborn, who finished fourth at state last year. “I kept hitting the ball deep and playing my game.
“I was very consistent.”
Like South’s Nunemaker and Armbrust, Sanborn has lost just once this year.
“I’m just trying to power through and get a good record since this is my senior year,” she said. “I hope to go to state and get in the top four again.”
Sanborn won her semifinal over South’s Tess Daily, 8-1. Daily, in turn, came back to beat Central freshman Janae Montoya 8-3 in the third-place match.