CARBONDALE, Ill. — Tyra Buss will have lots of company when she heads to her fourth straight state tournament this weekend.
Mt. Carmel not only qualified Buss, who won her fourth consecutive IHSA sectional singles championship Saturday, but also singles player Hannah Seaton and the doubles team of Malarie Hargrave and Elise Thomason.
The Lady Aces piled up enough points to win their second sectional tite in school history, and first since 2007.

Mt. Carmel finished with 26 points, edging Centralia (23 points) and host Carbondale (21) for the crown. Mt. Vernon, Ill. and Marion rounded out the top five.

“It was decided by the end of Friday, it was looking like Mt. Carmel was going to win,” said Lady Aces coach Patty Bramlet, knowing that Buss, barring catastrophe, would end up winnng the singles crown.

The coach said “there is a different atmosphere” at the sectional tournament. “There’s more teams and fans there. There’s a lot of pressure on you.”

Buss, undefeated in regular-season play at 73-0, kept her perfect sectional record intact, finishing 16-0 in matches during her time at the Hilltop.

Bramlet said Buss, who won four straight 6-0, 6-0 matches, took a different approach in the finals.

Seaton finished fourth in singles to qualify for state, losing a tough third-place match to Carbondale freshman Niusha Daneshdoost, 7-6, 6-2.

Hargrave and Thomason won their first two matches on Friday, then fell in three sets to eventual champions Sanny Ingersoll and Abbey Holtkamp of Centralia, 6-0, 4-6, 6-1. They lost to Elle Wells and Katie Hartmann of Centralia in the third-place match but knew they had already qualified for state
by then.

A 6-1, 6-3 win over Scott/Winkler of Mt. Vernon in the second was Hargrave and Thomason at their best, according to Bramlet.

“They played the net really well,” Bramlet said. “Great serves and cross court shots.”

The doubles team of Carly Reeves and Cassie Conn did not qualify for state, but their first-round win on Friday netted four points for the team. As it turns out, that made the difference for the Aces.

The one-class state tournament begins on Thursday in Chicagoland.