The Red Demons girls tennis team finished third at the Dodge City Invitational Tuesday night. They finished behind Garden City and Great Bend, which finished first and second respectively.
The Red Demons were led by senior Leah Stein, who finished first in the No. 1 singles.
Despite being the reigning Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Stein said she had to adapt in some of Tuesday’s matches, specifically in the final against Hays.
“It was kind of a struggle but I just had to push through, kind of adapt, change my game a little bit and just kind of see what works, ” Stein said. “In the end changing my style of play really helped.”
Stein said it took loosing a game within the set to realize she needed to adapt. She was up 3-0 and was about to win the fourth game, but her opponent turned the tables and won the game to make it 3-1.
“That was kind of tough,” Stein said. “After that, I kept just trying what I normally do, and that wasn’t working. So then toward the end I just decided to keep the ball in play and just make sure I wasn’t making any unforced errors on my part.”
Stein ultimately won that match, having gone undefeated Tuesday. Even losing one of the games within a match has been rare for her. Until Tuesday, she had only lost two games all season.
“I haven’t really had much pressure put on me,” Stein said. “I think today was definitely a good chance to kind of have pressure put on me and that’ll definitely prepare me (for my future meets).”
This was only the third meet of the season for the Red Demons, but Stein said she thinks it helped identify some things she’ll need to work on while ultimately proving to have prepared her for conference play.
Red Demons head coach David Snodgrass said it was good to host the meet, in part because many of the teams the Red Demons will face this season in conference play were there.
“It kind of gives you a preview of WAC (play),” Snodgrass said. “We play pool play, so you might not see everyone, but at least we get to see good competition throughout the day.”
Like Stein, Snodgrass said Tuesday’s meet was a stepping-stone on the path to October, when the team hosts the WAC championships before Regionals and State later that month. Positives included that the Demons’ doubles teams have started to compete at a higher level, even if they haven’t yet risen to the level of beating some of the better competition.
Tuesday’s invitational will help the team identify other areas to improve, Snodgass said.
“It gives us an idea of where we are in WAC, what we need to work on,” Snodgrass said. “Right now, we’ve got to be able to continue to improve and we’ve got to win those one-on-one matches, whether it’s Garden City (or) Great Bend. Those teams are going to be in contention, Hays is going to be right up there. When it comes down to it, we have to win those matches. If we want to be in a position to compete for a WAC title, we’ll have to win those head-to-head matches, and right now we’re coming up a little short. But I think as we improve, hopefully we can close those gaps and win it when it matters.”
The Lady Demons next travel to Derby for the Derby Invitational at 3 p.m. Thursday.