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Local tennis players take experience edge into state finals

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Follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog, www.tailingthekomets.com.

Barnes and Dwenger duo among favorites for titles

Sunday, June 9, 2013 - 10:00 am

Is being the favorite a bunch of extra pressure or a wonderful opportunity?

Canterbury singles player Leah Barnes and the Bishop Dwenger doubles team of Elizabeth Maxson and Audrey Rang both finished second in the state last year in their respective tournaments.

Though just a freshman, Barnes lost to Penn's Alexandra Brinker 6-4, 6-2 in the final, and Maxson and Rang lost to Highland twins Abigail and Vanessa Madrigal 6-2, 6-1. Barnes finished 28-1 and Maxson and Rang 23-1 last year.

The local players have very similar records this year as Barnes is 29-0 and Maxson and Rang are 25-0. The big differences this time may be that Brinker graduated last year and the Madrigals got knocked out early in this year's tournament, meaning Barnes and the Saints could be considered the favorites heading into this weekend's state finals.

If they want to look at it that way.

``I think it works in our advantage because we were the runner-up last year, and they want to be the first girls from Fort Wayne to bring home a state title,'' Bishop Dwenger coach Jeremy Patterson said. ``We know where we stack up. We have nothing to lose just like everyone else.''

But the Saints do have a serious advantage in terms of experience.

``We played on the big stage last year, so those nerves are not in the girls this year,'' Patterson said. ``It's different because we've been there before. You can see the difference in the way the girls are handling themselves.''

If anything, having the advantage in experience might also put more pressure on opponents. The Fort Wayne players are known commodities when normally everyone goes to the state finals trying to compare common opponents so they can find any scouting reports.

Barnes is trying to keep working on her game so she's even harder to predict with a scouting report. She's also not worrying too much if anyone else thinks she's a favorite.

``We're not trying to focus on any special opponent or anything, but we do want her to work on coming to the net to put pressure on opponents,'' Canterbury coach Jerry Gerig said. ``If she does the things we ask, she'll be in every match. There are three or four really good players in the state this year, and we think if she plays her style and plays some of her best tennis, she'll have a good chance.''

Play starts at 10 a.m. Friday at Park Tudor High School and continues at 2 p.m. Friday and at 10 a.m. Saturday for the semifinals. The championship matches start at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Maxson and Rang play at 10 a.m. Friday against South Bend St. Joseph's Emily Lyon and Maddie Minaudo, 19-4. If the Saints win that match, they'll play Floyd Central's Whitney Batliner and Dana Frank, 28-2, at 2 p.m.

Barnes doesn't play until 2 p.m. Friday when she faces Bloomington South's Denise Azcui, 25-1. If she wins that match, Barnes would face Carmel's Bailey Padgett, 22-0, in Saturday's 10 a.m. semifinals.