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SPOTLIGHT
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Panthers feeling good heading into tennis regional

Published on -10/5/2012, 10:42 AM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Phillipsburg High School senior Brooke Boyington was a member of the Panther volleyball program the last three falls and went to the state tournament each season. However, when summer volleyball season came around, Boyington had second thoughts. Boyington spent many days thinking about stepping away from the sport. She talked with veteran Panther coach Terra Keeten.

"It just wasn't the right sport for me, and I thought that tennis would be the right sport to change to," Boyington said.

Boyington prepared for her new sport by practicing this summer with her parents and friends, often before her father went to work at 8 a.m. as a veterinarian. She watched the U.S. Open.

"It's a fun game, and it's one I could play," Boyington said.

Boyington's transition has led to a 16-2 record at No. 1 doubles with senior Kaitlyn Vogel. Last week, Boyington/Vogel won the Mid-Continent League crown at No. 1 doubles with a 3-0 record and helped the Panthers earn the team title with 16 points.

"A really exciting thing this year for our team," coach Linda Jarvis, in her 25th season as Phillipsburg's tennis coach, said of Boyington. "This is always what I've said: Everyone is one good summer away from being a pretty good tennis player. If you wanted to put that kind of time and effort into it, you can make huge improvements over one summer, and she just took that, and made it real for everybody, and I hope some other people see that."

This weekend, Phillipsburg will compete at the Class 3-2-1A Russell regional. Matches start at 10 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Top six singles players and doubles teams advance to state next week at Hutchinson.

The Panthers' regional includes Central Plains and defending state champion Ellinwood, ranked third and fifth, respectively in the coaches' poll. Ellsworth and Norton, led by senior Tawni Griffey, a former state champion, are receiving votes and are also at the regional. Osborne and Victoria and Russell will be at Russell, while WaKeeney-Trego Community heads to Cimarron.

Jarvis believes the doubles' teams of Boyington/Vogel and Kylah Ellis and Brittni Groothoff (16-3) can qualify in the fourth to sixth places. Ellis/Groothoff also won a MCL crown. After three state runs in volleyball, Boyington has thought about qualifying for state for a fourth straight year in a fall sport.

"That would be so amazing if we did," Boyington said. "..I would be so blessed to make it there."

Senior Arika Aiken (14-14 at No. 1 singles) and Amy Stapel (10-7 at No. 2 singles) could have some difficulty qualifying.

"They are going to have to beat somebody they haven't beat to get in," Jarvis said.

Boyington has become the Panthers' top player through her summer work. She talked with Jarvis about a possible switch last spring and then worked hard after the change.

"In the end, I am really happy with the choice that I made," Boyington said.

Boyington/Vogel started the year with a loss to Beloit in their first match, a defeat that Jarvis thinks would be different now. Vogel first came out as a sophomore, but was injured quite a bit last year.

"Has a real strong cross-court game, powerful at the net, powerful serve," Jarvis said.

Boyington has improved in all areas, including learning scoring, to groundstrokes and her serve. The only other loss came against Tribune-Greeley County.

"Before I would just kind of toss the ball up and smack it, never really thought about form or actually truly how it should be done," Boyington said. "I really had to work on that, where to throw it, how to position myself."

The two friends push each other on the court. Boyington said if Vogel is down, she can help raise her spirits and vice versa. The first-year partnership could produce a state berth this weekend.

"They are probably one of the most patient doubles teams I have ever seen," Jarvis said. "They work well together. They talk to each other after each point. They are a good team."

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