Tyler Brown knows that his McPherson High boys tennis team gave all that it had this past weekend in the Class 4A State Tournament in Prairie Village.
Normally having a state champion, a third-place finisher and a sixth-place finisher would have been enough to secure a state title.
But Wichita Collegiate had four placers in the Top 7 and despite not having a champion in either singles or doubles, the Spartans repeated as the state champion.
MHS and Collegiate battled it out all year, with the Bullpups outlasting the Spartans at the league meet, but Collegiate came back to win the biggest prize.
Yet, Brown doesn’t believe his team could have done any more.
“We had an outstanding state tournament and I couldn't be more proud to coach these young men this season,” Brown said. “Not only do they compete extremely hard on the court, every one of them comes from great families and showed amazing character that a coach can be proud of. I know it was their goal to win state, but as several of them know sometimes not only do you need to be extremely good, sometimes you need a little luck as well. You need the draw to fall your way or you need 100 percent health from all your players down the stretch of the season. You really do need several things to fall in place to be able to put a banner up in the Roundhouse. The positive though is everyone that participated in this state tournament is back next year. And knowing how hard these guys work on their game I know we will be in the hunt for a state title once again next year.”
For the second time in his career, Nolan Schrader was part of a state championship doubles team as he combined with Kaden Stewart to roll to the title. Other than one set, the MHS duo wasn’t tested and it finished the year 25-3.
For Schrader, he’s now been to the state title match in each of his first three years. He won it all with Gallagher Martin in 2015 and took second last year with Kento Aizawa.
So it wasn’t a surprise when he combined with Stewart for the title.
“Kaden’s skills were a great complement to those of Nolan with this dynamic duo,” Brown said. “Kaden was steady and just gives the opponent nothing to work with and does not make very many errors. This duo was paired together their freshman year and was 21-5 before I had to split them up for the best results at state that year, which won state that year. I knew they would be very good again this year.”
McPherson is still looking for its first-ever state singles champion, but Andrew Snell and Jarrod Nowak are knocking on the door. Snell took third — the highest finish ever by a Bullpup – while Nowak was sixth. Last year, it was Nowak who took fifth and Snell sixth.
Snell now has finished in the Top 6 in each of his first three years.
“Wow, I can't say enough good things about this kid,” Brown said. “He set the bar extremely high his freshman year two years ago placing fourth, which at that time was the highest singles finish for McPherson High School boys tennis history. After Day 1, Andrew found himself in the semifinals of the singles draw yet again for the second time in his high school career. He fell just short of being the first (MHS) boys player to ever play in a final, but definitely came the closet losing in a tiebreaker in the second set to (Collegiate’s) Lakelin Conrad. With momentum turning Snell's way in the second set, if he could of pulled that tiebreaker out I can only imagine what might of happened in the third set. Andrew may train and log the most court time on our team. I'm extremely excited to see what his senior year has in store for him. If he continues to improve as much as from his sophomore year to his junior year going into his senior year several players need to be very worried. Not only does he have a extremely high character on the court it matches off the court and that’s what I love about Andrew.”
Nowak had yet another solid finish as he’s been one of the state’s best in each of his first two years.
“Jarrod had a bittersweet tournament,” Brown said. “For the second year in a row he drew the No. 1 seed in his quarterfinals. But he did not shy away though, he gave (Miege’s) Will Grier his toughest match losing in the three sets. Jarrod fought back after losing the first set to win the second set, but then ran out of gas cramping up after the first game in the third set, but fighting to the very end losing the third set 6-4. Jarrod showed tremendous effort and determination in not only finishing that match, but doing everything at the end of Day 1 to be ready for Day 2 and giving it a go and having to play at not 100 percent, but being able to finish the tournament in sixth place.”
With all four players coming back next year and Collegiate losing four of its six, the Bullpups could very well get over the top.