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St. Joseph's Choate takes shot at becoming Missouri's first four-time girls doubles champ

St. Joseph's Choate takes shot at becoming Missouri's first four-time girls doubles champ

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Class 3 District 1 girls tennis individual tournament

Bella Hong (left) and Ellie Choate of St. Joseph's are taking aim at the Class 3 girls doubles state championship Thursday and Friday at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield. Choate is seeking to become Missouri's first four-time girls doubles state title winner. Paul Baillargeon, Special to

St. Joseph's senior Ellie Choate is chasing history Thursday and Friday at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.

Choate has the chance to become the first player to capture four doubles championships in the Missouri girls tennis state tournament.

She hopes to share the state championship with her third different partner. Choate won state with Lexie Woodman in 2018 and 2019 and with Abby Gaines last season.

Bella Hong is her partner this season.

"I would say I have a combination of excitement and nerves," Choate said. "I have a little bit of pressure, mostly from myself, but I am grateful for that pressure."

Kiki Stastny, who also played for St. Joseph's, won four singles state championships from 1998-2001.

But no doubles player has swept four titles. Four players have won three state doubles titles. Notably, Kathleen Heckman and Mary Anne Heckman of St. Joseph LeBlond won three titles together from 1978-1980.

Cheryl Hickey of Rock Bridge won with three different partners from 1999, 2001 and 2002.

Erin Bleakley of Pembroke Hill also won with three different partners from 2004-2006.

Choate and Hong are scheduled to play Joplin’s Astrid Cardenas and Emma Watts in the first round Thursday morning.

Angels coach Doug Smith is looking forward to the challenge and hopes to have coached the state's only four-time singles champ and doubles champ.

"Bella is an excellent doubles player, as well," Smith said. “And Ellie is very accomplished. She is an extremely smart player. She knows when to poach and when to stay home. She just has natural instincts at the net."

A possible quarterfinal match could pit Choate and Hong against Visitation's Suzanna McLellan and Flora Eidson. McLellan and her sister Sophia won the Class 2 doubles championship last year. The two teams played in the regular season, with Choate and Hong winning in an eight-game pro set after trailing 4-0; a state quarterfinal would use a best-of-three format.

Several other area players have high ambitions, especially in Class 3.

Gaines and John Burroughs' Emily Kantrovitz are in the same half of the singles draw. With two wins Thursday, they would play in the semifinals Friday.

Parkway South's Khayli Buckels and Sahana Madala of John Burroughs are in the same quarter of the draw and could play in the quarterfinals Thursday.

An interesting first-round matchup finds GAC rivals Gaby St. Jean of Fort Zumwalt West and Timberland's Livia Votruba playing each other once again. The winner of that match likely would face Gaines in the second round.

Play in the individual portion of the state tournament begins at 9 a.m. Thursday for Class 2 and 3 in singles and doubles.

The semifinals for those classes are scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday, with championship matches scheduled for noon.

Class 1 is scheduled to play its first round matches in both singles and doubles at 1 p.m. Friday. The semifinals in Class 1 are scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, with championship matches at 1 p.m.

The team state tournament will be played Oct. 22 and 23, also at Cooper Tennis Complex.

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