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Hays High's Forinash headed to state

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

The Brooke Forinash of two months ago probably wouldn't be going to state. That player wasn't as confident or as determined as the current one, and the evolution on the tennis court is paying big dividends for the Hays High School sophomore.

"I think just my self-esteem during when I play, because at the beginning of the season I was struggling on getting down on myself," Forinash said of the difference between now and then. "Now I know if I can get myself back up anything can happen."

She proved exactly that last Saturday, when Forinash pulled out a sixth-place finish at regionals in Newton to qualify for the Class 5A state tennis tournament, which was scheduled to start today in Arkansas City.

Forinash's confidence was put to the test in her first match at regionals, where she dropped her first set 6-1 to Newton's Susannah Epp, a match she had to win in order to remain in state contention.

"She lost her first set and in my head I was thinking, 'No, she's worked so hard all year. She can beat this girl,' " Hays High tennis coach Megan Quinley said. "She came back, beat that girl and made it through the first round. Then she played lights out against the Newton girl that qualified her to state. There was no mercy. She wanted to go and she did it."

After coming back to beat Epp in three sets, Forinash lost her second match to Andover's Grace Bell 6-1, 6-1. This put her into an all or nothing third-round match against Newton's Erin Graber, a trip to state on the line.

It was important that she put the second match out of mind very quickly.

"I just think I remembered everyone that was counting on me to go. I put so much time in with my coach and my teammates," Forinash said. "I didn't want to just blow it because I had a bad attitude. I needed to get back up and that was it. It was my time that I've been working for this entire season."

And when she needed to shine the most, she did, defeating Graber 6-0, 6-4 to earn her first trip to state. As a freshman, Forinash was one and done in regionals.

Now Forinash turns her attention to an even bigger prize, knowing full well the sort of competition she is likely to face at state. Quinley also knows what it's like, having competed at state as recently as 2010, her senior year at Salina South High School. This is proving to be invaluable to Forinash.

"It's awesome because she can really tell me what I'm going to see out of different tournaments and what to expect," Forinash said. "And being a girl we can definitely relate to different stuff, like on how we play. It's awesome because we are closer in age and she definitely knows what is recent and what the players know."

As the last player to qualify out of the Newton regional and with only a 20-16 record heading into state, Forinash and Quinley understand they will have their hands full. Class 5A has many great tennis players standing in Forinash's way, including Emporia High School's Ashley DeBauge (28-2), Bishop Carroll's Courtney Lubbers (21-3) and Andover High School's Do-hee Lee (27-1).

But with this newfound confidence, Quinley doesn't want Forinash to set her sights too low and wants her to take in as much as possible knowing that she is just a sophomore and can "only grow from this experience."

"She has a chance to go farther than she thinks she can," Quinley said. "If I could just tell her one thing it's to give it everything she has. It's the last one of the year, granted she still has two more years after this. But she has nothing to lose going there. So you might as well give it every single thing that you have."