SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – North County tennis standout Lucy Pace received a difficult first assignment when the MSHSAA Class 1 state singles bracket was released last Wednesday.
Once sustaining a decisive 6-1, 6-1 defeat at the hands of Savannah senior Iris Alvarez on Friday, Pace admitted feeling nervous about a potential empty journey to Springfield.
“I feel that my opponent and I both did not play to our best ability. She just came out ahead. My mental game wasn’t there,” Pace said. “If I lost again, I knew that I was going home and wasn’t ready to go home yet. The pressure in the first match was horrible, and I didn’t respond well at all.”
The urgency of the situation clearly motivated Pace, who refocused toward her objective to appear on the podium after falling one victory short last fall.
She returned to defeat four consecutive opponents over the next 24 hours, and secured fifth place to add an elusive award to her state runner-up doubles medal from two years ago.
Pace punctuated her senior campaign with a 21-2 singles mark after starting off 17-0, and previously claimed both conference and district individual and team championships with the Lady Raiders.
“I love that I earned the state singles medal. Knowing that I did this on my own and had a goal in mind, I am so satisfied,” she said. “I worked very hard and I’m very proud.”
Her first step on the state comeback trail was a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Hennessy Brown of Nevada. She then clinched top-eight standing by topping Christi Tejeda of Kennett 6-2, 6-3 in evening action.
Two more winning endeavors followed Saturday. With the guarantee of landing somewhere between fifth and eighth overall, Pace emerged with the strongest possible outcome.
She rolled past Meredith Goff of Ursuline Academy 6-3, 6-0, and closed her varsity career by downing Elena Williams of Lafayette County 6-4, 6-1.
“My serve was 50-50,” Pace said when summarizing the entire weekend. “I think I played a very good mental game as I played my final match for fifth place. She did not like that I was winning. I was very consistent in my hitting.”
Starting at the No. 5 player ranking for North County as a freshman, Pace contributed to four straight district crowns and never lost a non-tournament singles contest over four seasons.
Leiloni Payton of Lincoln Prep blitzed Clayton opponent Aanya Singh 6-0, 6-2 for the Class 1 singles championship. Alvarez wound up one spot ahead of Pace in fourth.
Claire Bean and Handley McAtee of Kennett — familiar playoff rivals of North County — beat Anna Gaffney and Sophia Swingle of St. Michael 6-0, 6-4 to capture the Class 1 doubles title.
Farmington 15, Sikeston 0
FARMINGTON – Shelby Bowling crushed two home runs, and Farmington eliminated Sikeston from the Class 4, District 1 softball tournament, 15-0 in three innings on Friday night.
Elly Robbins added an inside-the-park, three-run homer while going 2-for-2 with three runs scored, and pitched an abbreviated no-hitter with six strikeouts and three walks allowed.
Farmington (19-8) tallied four times in the first inning after its first batters reached base safely, and advanced to face Festus in the semifinal round on Monday.
Bowling began her 3-for-3 performance with single that made it 3-0 before courtesy runner Lilly Staat crossed the plate on a passed ball.
Olivia Hartupee and Jayce Jarvis drew consecutive walks to begin the bottom of the second, and Robbins circled the bases on a drive past the center fielder.
Bowling launched her first home run of the game two batters later for a 10-0 advantage, and ended the action with a three-run blast that enforced the mercy rule.
Jayden Tucker notched a single and two walks to equal Jarvis, who crossed the plate three times. Jocelyn Grimes provided two infield hits for the Knights.
Festus 5, North County 4
FARMINGTON – The last of four quarterfinal games in the Class 4, District 1 tournament brought an excruciating conclusion to the season for North County.
Aubrey Doyle drilled a solo home run to center field off senior pitcher Sammy Waller in the bottom of the seventh inning, and Festus celebrated a 5-4 victory in walk-off fashion late Friday.
Festus (17-10) pulled even in the sixth on an error at third base, and advanced to face Farmington for the third time this season in the semifinal round on Friday.
Winning hurler Ava Oberle struck out Bailey Wimmer on her 153rd and final offering after the Lady Raiders produced two base runners with two outs in the top of the seventh.
North County (8-20) left the bases loaded in the third inning, and would not register a hit until Raegan Pierce singled in the fourth against Oberle, who fanned 10 and allowed seven hits plus six walks.
Waller provided another durable outing in defeat, going the distance on 137 pitches. She struck out three and walked an unusual eight while likewise yielding seven hits.
Festus jumped ahead 2-0 when Alexis Gauch and Olivia Gillam drew bases-loaded walks at the bottom of the order with no outs. Waller limited the damage from there with two infield pop outs.
Oberle added an RBI single in the fourth, but left fielder Madi Carroll threw out a second runner at home. North County answered with authority in the fifth.
Carroll reached base for a third straight time with a single, and Amy Layton brought in Emma Roper with a ground ball ahead of three clutch hits with two outs.
Addy Goggin made it 3-2 with an RBI single to right, then scored from first base on a tying double by Wimmer. Pierce then highlighted her 3-for-4 effort with the go-ahead single.
Waller worked around a two-out double by Doyle, who was 2-for-3, in the home half. But the Lady Tigers scratched across the tying run after drawing multiple walks in the sixth.
Roper singled and walked twice for North County. Carroll was denied a potential second hit on a line out in the sixth.