Jefferson City senior Sandhiya Baskar has been perfect in singles play this season.
Her perfection will be tested the next two days in the Class 2 state singles tournament, which begins at 9 a.m. today at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.
"This season has been pretty good, I've been playing really well so far. I hope to continue to do that," Baskar said, as she carries a 28-0 record in singles competition into the state tournament.
"I've learned a lot along the way and I've become mentally tougher, so I hope to use that this week."
Baskar will be one of 16 players — eight district champions and eight district runners-up — competing at the state tournament. She will open play this morning in the first round against Carl Junction's Naiyah Wurdeman, who took second place in the District 6 singles tournament.
Baskar won the District 4 singles tournament Oct. 1 in Sedalia. She cruised to first place, winning all 12 games in the championship match.
"I started playing with a good mindset from the very beginning," Baskar said. "I tried to not lose as many games as possible, and it worked. I only lost two games (total in districts).
In addition to the district singles tournament, Baskar won individual singles titles in the Springfield Invitational and the Sedalia Smith-Cotton Invitational.
"We knew coming in that, when you have a player of Sandy's caliber returning, the sky's the limit for her," Jefferson City coach Henry Thompson said. "Especially being Class 2 this year, we knew coming in that she could really do some damage and hopefully have a long postseason run."
Thompson added the Springfield Invitational to the Lady Jays' schedule this season, giving his players an opportunity to play at the same site as the state tournament.
"In Springfield, that was the best couple days she's had this year," Thompson said. "Hopefully we can rekindle that as we go back to Springfield this week."
This is Baskar's third appearance in the singles state tournament. She went 0-2 in Class 2 in 2019 and was 1-2 last season in Class 3.
But thanks to last month's Invitational, Baskar has won her past four matches at Cooper Tennis Complex.
"I wanted Sandy to get that winning feeling on those courts and to leave that complex with a really good taste in her mouth, before we came back the next time," Thompson said.
Baskar admitted her focus won't be on staying undefeated or winning a medal at state. She has kept it simple at practice, saying she is focused on her consistency and her serve.
"It's important, but I'm not thinking about that too much," Baskar said. "I'm going to keep my mind free, go play and let the rest play out."
Baskar will face either Glendale's Letizia Carradori or Ladue's Saba Fajors in her second match today. Baskar defeated Carradori 8-0 in the semifinals of the Springfield Invitational.
Sophomore Sarah Wilde has already played a big role in the brief athletic history of Capital City High School.
She helped the Lady Cavaliers to the school's first district title in any sport last week. Now she'd like to become part of the small group of Capital City athletes to get an all-state medal.
"I feel like I can make it to the second day this year," said Wilde, who begins play today in the Class 2 state singles tournament. "I want a medal, that would be amazing."
Wilde qualified for state as a freshman last year, finishing 1-2 at Springfield. She lost in a tiebreaker to Sedalia Smith-Cotton's Caroline Matz in the bubble round.
"I remember a lot of nerves, but I had fun," Wilde said. "I won the first match for Capital City at state, so it was exciting."
Wilde qualified for state by finishing runner-up in District 4. She will open against Parkway North's Yvonne Shannon — the District 3 champion — in the first round.
"She anticipated being here, and she would have been disappointed if she had not gotten to state," Capital City coach Bob Roling said. "She is a competitor."
Wilde has compiled 19-8 record in singles play this season. After starting 1-4, she won 16 of her next 17 matches, including the Waynesville Invitational title.
"Her impact on the program has been so extraordinary," Roling said. "When you get a freshman that comes in and plays No. 1, it's amazing. She came in as a developed tennis player, we're just trying to support her."
Three of Wilde's losses came against Jefferson City's Sandhiya Baskar. Wilde lost 0-6, 0-6 on Oct. 1 in individual districts, then closed the gap with a 0-6, 4-6 loss in last Thursday's district dual.
"In districts, Sarah got to another level," Roling said. "She was in a zone, and it was amazing to see that."
One of the reasons Wilde wants a state medal is so she can share the honor with her older brother, Josh Wilde, a Jefferson City High School graduate who placed seventh in the Class 3 boys singles state tournament in the spring.
"I want to place at least eighth, so I can get close to my brother," Wilde said with a laugh.
Wilde will face either Ladue's Megan Ouyang or Rockwood Summit's Kavya Ramesh in her second match at state.
With 16 districts in Class 1, Helias junior Samantha Schlacks had to win an extra match to get to her first state tournament.
First, Schlacks finished runner-up in the District 9 singles tournament Oct. 4. Four days later, she had to knock off a district champion in the sectional round to qualify for state.
"Last year, I didn't get the chance to play for state because I had COVID," Schlacks said. "This year, I set a goal to make it to state, and I was able to fulfill that."
Schlacks defeated Aurora's Olivia Ray 6-2, 6-4 in sectionals at the Crusader Athletic Complex to clinch her first state berth.
"It was really nerve-racking, to know that if I lost, I wouldn't go to state," Schlacks said. "I kept a good mental state, pushed through and got the win."
Schlacks will open the Class 1 state tournament against Kennett's Anelle Harris — the District 1 champion — in the first round, which starts at 1 p.m. Friday. Schlacks is only one of four district runner-up finishers among the 16 state qualifiers.
It has already been a busy postseason for Schlacks, as the Lady Crusaders wrapped up their season as a team Tuesday with a sectional win against Mount Vernon and a quarterfinal loss to Bolivar.
"The postseason doesn't even seem that busy, because it's what you've been doing all season long," Helias coach Maggie Crider said. "Sam wants to always do her part to get the team going."
Schlacks has an 11-17 record as Helias' No. 1 singles player, but much of her competition came against Class 2 and Class 3 foes. Schlacks is 4-2 this postseason, with two more matches stopped short after Helias clinched a district dual win.
"It's very difficult to be a No. 1 in tennis, because you're always playing the best on every team," Crider said. "Record-wise, Sam has a strong record compared to our past No. 1s."
Schlacks will face either Clayton's Aanya Singh or Savannah's Iris Alvarez in her second match of the state tournament, which will conclude Saturday.
"If I don't move on to Saturday, I'd like to know that I played my hardest," Schlacks said.