Saturday’s McPherson Invitational Tennis Tournament had the potential to be an explosive preview of next month’s state tournament since the top three teams in Class 4A — No. 1 Wichita Collegiate, No. 2 McPherson High and No. 3 Independence — headlined a star-studded field that also included 5A power Maize.
But Collegiate and Independence decided not to show their hands, obviously waiting for the big show on May 12-13 in Prairie Village where everything will be determined.
Collegiate not bringing its Top 6 was no surprise to MHS coach Tyler Brown as it normally doesn’t send its entire best here. To its credit, it did send No. 1 singles player Lakelin Conrad, who was second in the state last year to four-time champion Tommy Hunter of Topeka Hayden.
Independence, meanwhile, didn’t showcase its top singles player Zack Schroeder, who was third in the state last year. Schroeder was here, as were most of the Bulldogs’ elite players, but he took the day off from singles and played doubles, combining with his partner to take fifth place.
McPherson High, meanwhile, went with its full-strength lineup. That includes Andrew Snell and Jarrod Nowak at singles, and the doubles teams of Nolan-Schrader-Kaden Stewart and Hadley Hageman-Partrick Munsey.
Nowak and Snell were fifth and sixth in the state in singles last year, respectively. They had to play each other at state last year, just as they had to do on Saturday in the semifinals. Snell defeated Nowak and there’s little doubt they could both make the state semifinals with the right draw. Schroeder and Conrad are expected to be the other top two singles players in 4A, if you go by past history. Nowak came back from his loss to Snell to defeat Conrad in an exciting match for third place that went to a tiebreaker.
Doubles will be interesting. MHS’ Schrader and Stewart have really meshed as they seem to be getting better every meet. Schrader has been a state finalist in each of his two years, combining with Gallagher Martin to win the title in 2015 and then last year was second with Kento Aizawa.
MHS’ other doubles team isn’t bad, either. Hageman and Munsey, the only two seniors among the Top 6, can only get better by going up against Schrader and Stewart every day in practice, not to mention Brown has a really good all-freshman doubles team of Rhett Edmonson and Jackson Schrader.
If Hageman and Munsey make state, don’t be surprised if they win some matches. Even though they’re MHS’ No. 2 team, they’d be a lot of schools’ No. 1.
It will be interesting to see what happens on Saturday when the “Big 3” of MHS, Collegiate and Indy are all scheduled to compete in the Collegiate Tournament of Champions. Maybe we’ll be more answers than we did on Saturday.