CHEYENNE – The Cheyenne Central girls tennis team knew it had the potential to be very good this season.
The Lady Indians returned eight of their top nine players from a team that captured a share of the Wyoming state championship last fall. Central has played like an experienced team throughout this season, going 12-0 in duals. Only two have been close – 3-2 wins over Kelly Walsh and Sheridan.
The Indians took that dominance to another level at the South Regional in Green River. They won championships at all five levels. In the process, they dropped just 36 games across 36 matches.
That dominance earned them Prep Athlete of the Week honors from WyoSports’ Cheyenne staff.
“I don’t know if I can even put into words how happy I was this weekend,” said Sarah Foster, who teamed up with Kaitlyn Ackerman to win the No. 2 doubles title. “I was so excited that I was jumping around.
“We have always performed well at regionals and won, but this year we swept, and that was crazy. Watching my teammates excel felt really good. All of our work over the past four years clicked, and it worked out really well for us.”
Emily Needham remained unbeaten on the season to win No. 1 singles, while Cassadie Anderson took the title at No. 2 singles. Ashli and Kaitlyn Smedley claimed the No. 1 doubles title, while Kamryn Tempel and Jena Brown won at No. 3 doubles.
Even though they only graduated one player from their 2019 state title team, the Indians’ lineup looks almost as different as can be. Needham at No. 1 singles is the only constant.
This is Anderson’s first season playing singles. She and Foster finished second at No. 1 doubles at last year’s state tournament.
“She has done a great job playing singles this year,” said Needham, who was the No. 1 singles state champ a year ago. “Her last match was the best I’ve ever seen her play.”
Challenge match results also shuffled Central’s doubles teams.
Kaitlyn Smedley – who was third at No. 2 singles last season – has teamed with her younger sister Ashli to go undefeated as the No. 1 doubles tandem. Ackerman – who teamed with Tempel last fall – is now playing with Foster. Tempel has teamed with Brown, who was a varsity alternate in 2019. Gracie Osterland and Tenley Keller took third at No. 3 doubles last fall. Keller graduated in May, while Osterland is now a varsity alternate.
It took the tandems a few duals to develop chemistry, but they now look like they’ve been playing together for years, coach Karen Clark said.
“They’ve figured each other out, figured out what their strengths and weaknesses are, and are playing a lot better,” she said.
The competition for roster spots and in practice has only brought the best out of the Indians, Foster said.
“I had some really tough challenge matches this year,” she said. “Everyone put up a really good fight. This is probably the most solid team I’ve seen at Central since my freshman year.
“We’re really solid throughout all our positions and not just at the top three spots. That’s important.”
Central will try to win its fourth consecutive state championship – and sixth in the past seven seasons – when the state tournament starts Thursday in Gillette. Success has bred lofty expectations. The Indians said they feel pressure to continue the run, but they’re not weighed down by the expectations.
“There’s always going to be pressure to perform,” said Needham, who also had a No. 2 singles state championship to her name. “But it really comes from our opponents being so strong.
“That’s what really creates the pressure, and we have handled that really well this year. I feel really good about how our team is playing going into state.”
Others recognized for their efforts include:
-- Graedyn Buell and Jackson Hesford, football, Cheyenne East: Buell, a senior, completed 10 of 15 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns during the fourth-ranked Thunderbirds’ 56-13 victory over visiting Laramie. He also rushed for 75 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.
Hesford, also a senior, caught seven passes for 127 yards and a touchdown.
-- Andy Cummins and Andrew Johnson, football, Central: Cummins, a senior, completed 23 of 30 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns to help the No. 1-ranked Indians to a 38-26 victory over second-ranked Thunder Basin.
Johnson, also a senior, caught six of those passes for 177 yards and a touchdown.
-- Jason Frentheway, boys cross-country, Central: The junior won the Cheyenne Invitational in 17 minutes, 35.66 seconds. It’s his third win of the season.
-- Fletcher Mothershed, boys tennis, Cheyenne South: Mothershed went 3-0 to win the No. 2 singles championship at the South Regional tournament.
-- Mason Paskett, boys tennis, East: The senior went 3-0 to win the No. 1 singles title at the South Regional.
-- Kaya Pillivant, girls cross-country, Central: The junior won the Cheyenne Invitational in 20:32.82.
-- Ty Sweeter, football, Pine Bluffs: Sweeter caught three passes for 116 yards and three touchdowns during the Hornets’ 34-18 win over visiting Saratoga.