Platte County junior Molly McBratney made plenty of history this season, and that concluded with her two singles matches Thursday in the Class 2 Missouri State Tennis Championships at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield. She lost both but showed why the Pirates will have much to look forward to in 2021.
The first district champion and first state singles qualifier in program history, McBratney lost her opening match 6-0, 6-1 to Parkway Central’s Akansha Negi and was eliminated from the tournament in the afternoon with a 7-5, 6-4 loss to Capital City’s Sara Wilde. McBratney led 5-4 in the first set and 3-0 in the second set of her consolation match with Wilde but couldn’t close out either.
Negi went on to qualify for the semifinals to guarantee herself a medal. She was part of a Class 2 state semifinalist doubles team last year.
McBratney finished her second varsity season and first at No. 1 with an 18-13 record that didn’t tell the full story of her success.
“Molly played No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles every match this season, which means she faced every other school’s best player night in and night out,” Platte County coach Zach Keith said. “That comes with immense amounts of pressure, and it seemed like every point in the season when she was feeling that pressure, she would rise to the occasion and play solid tennis.”
As a freshman, McBratney was No. 33 out of 35 players in the Platte County program, but she dedicated herself to the sport in the offseason. She played No. 6 as a sophomore and then ascended to No. 1 this season with the Pirates replacing their top three players from an uncharacteristically down season.
Platte County had just one senior in the lineup (Emma Murray) this year and went 7-10 overall, losing 5-4 to Kearney in the Class 2 District 8 semifinals. A change in the number of classifications moved the Pirates out of the largest of two classes and into the middle of three classes — a welcome opportunity to achieve more postseason success.
“There are now three classes in tennis, and even though we’re Class 2 (in the postseason), we played nine matches against schools in Class 3, many of which were ranked in the top ten in the state,” Keith said. “To the girls’ credit, they used the tough competition to get better throughout the season. … We may have improved more as a team throughout the course of the season than any team I’ve ever coached.”
No one embodied that continued improvement more than McBratney, who became Platte County’s first individual state qualifier since the doubles team of Lisa Wyrwinski and Rachel Bumstead in 2009 when the Pirates were in their infancy and still in Class 1.
McBratney reached the Class 2 District 8 singles final and won the title with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Kearney No. 2 player Sara Dillon. Days later, Platte County and Kearney met in the team tournament, and McBratney lost a three-set, three-hour thriller to Kearney No. 1 Anya Dunn, a doubles state qualifier, in the deciding match
“The thing that makes me so proud of this group of girls is that they’ve been there supporting each other the entire season,” Keith said. “When Molly qualified for state individually, the first people to greet her when she came off the court were her teammates and coaches. Four days later, we were playing in team districts against Kearney, a senior-loaded team that beat us easily earlier in the season.
“The same group of girls that was there to greet her when she came off the court four days earlier at her highest moment, was right there to cry alongside her at her most devastating moment.”
Most of that team will be back next year to chase a team district title with McBratney an obvious contender to individually qualify for state again. She could make more history with a state win or state medal.