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HAC girls tennis championships, 5/11/18

Lincoln East's Madi Kiani returns the ball as doubles partner Justine Linscott backs her up during Heartland Athletic Conference Championship action at Woods Tennis Center on Friday.

ERIC GREGORY, Journal Star

Madi Kiani and Justine Linscott have had success as singles competitors.

Kiani was a state runner-up at No. 1 singles as a freshman, and Linscott won a No. 2 state singles title last year as a junior.

Put one and one together, and you get a powerful twosome.

Kiani and Linscott, seniors at Lincoln East, enter this week's girls state tennis tournament as the top seed at No. 1 doubles. They're 28-0 in their first and only high school season together, though they have been paired together in some USTA events.

"Both of us on the court, we click really well together," Kiani said. "I don't know what it is, but both of us keep each other level, and we just work as a team."

Their pairing was the result of some sacrifices.

Kiani followed her state runner-up finish at No. 1 singles as a freshman with a third-place showing as a sophomore. Bianca Rademacher, another top-level singles competitor, joined the team as a freshman, and Kiani saw an opportunity to make an impact at another spot in the lineup.

"I thought it would be best, just because she's a great singles player," Kiani said. "I knew she had the talent to fill the No. 1 singles spot, and I thought it would be cool for me to play doubles because I think I could easily lead the team at No. 1 doubles.

"It was kind of a weird transition, but at the same time it was the right transition."

East coach Chris Stock said he wanted to move Linscott to the top doubles team after she captured a state title last year. That led to a lot of work in the summer for Linscott.

"I definitely was looking forward to something new," Linscott said. "Come off that two-singles title, I was kind of wanting to move forward with my tennis career. It was definitely a new opportunity and I was super-excited when (Stock) told me I would be playing with Madi.

"With that partner, they rely on you, you rely on them, so you kind of have to be able to support them, so really being able to boost my confidence in general and just working on different aspects (of the game)."

Stock said Kiani and Linscott mesh well together.

"They're all business on the court," he said. "They kind of have a calm, serious nature about them when the matches start. I think it just matches real well, their personalities as far as being in the matches together."

East also has the state tournament's top-seeded team at No. 2 doubles in Kailey Jay-Kissler and Kathey Le. Rademacher (22-2) is the second seed behind three-time state champion Samantha Mannix (21-0) of Elkhorn South. Rademacher's only two losses this year are to Mannix.

East junior Brooke Sailer is seeded third at No. 2 singles. Lincoln Southeast's Caroline Miller is seeded second.

With state contenders at all four spots, the Spartans are among the contenders in the team title race. The focus, Stock said, is not on the big picture.

"We just want to focus in on our targets," he said. "Focusing on the first round, focusing on things we need to do no matter who we're playing. Really we're just focusing on fundamentals and not really thinking about anything beyond that."

Defending state champion McCook, Omaha Duchesne, Brownell-Talbot/Concordia, and Grand Island Central Catholic are among the contenders in Class B.

Omaha's Koch Tennis Center will host Class A  (9 a.m. start) Thursday, and Lincoln's Woods Tennis Center will host Class B (8 a.m. start).

Friday's championship matches are set for 1 p.m. at both sites.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.

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Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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