This is the last go-around for one of the most successful trios in McPherson High boys tennis history.
Nolan Schrader, Andrew Snell and Kaden Stewart will be making their final appearance for the Bullpups on Friday and Saturday as they compete in their fourth straight Class 4A State Tournament.
Winfield will be the venue and the trio hopes to leave the court holding the state championship trophy over their heads for a second time.
Schrader has a chance to accomplish a rare feat among Kansas tennis players. He has appeared in three straight state doubles finals with three different partners.
Schrader earned his spot on the Wall of Fame as a freshman when he combined with Gallagher Martin to capture the championship. As a sophomore, he teamed up with Kento Aizawa and they finished as the runner-up. Last year he joined with Stewart for the first time and they rolled to the championship.
Snell has been a singles staple and has been remarkably consistent. He was fourth at state as a freshman, sixth as a sophomore and had his best-ever finish in his junior year by taking third.
Stewart played singles as a freshman and took ninth, providing key points in the Bullpups’ championship run. He then played doubles as a sophomore with Hadley Hageman and took ninth before making the big jump last year with Schrader.
Add in junior Jarrod Nowak and the Bullpups truly have a “Big Four” as coach Tyler Brown often has called them. Nowak is 30-3 on the year in singles and Snell is 28-6, with some of his losses coming to Nowak. Schrader and Stewart are 33-1, the only loss coming at the league meet. So they are a combined 91-10 as Brown knows just about 90 percent of the time they are going to be successful.
The senior trio dearly wants to end their careers with bookend team championships. Of course it figures to come down to outlasting Wichita Collegiate as the two teams have battled not just this year, but the previous two as well. Brown said his team has never defeated Collegiate for the team title at state, as the Spartans won most of their championships competing in the Class 3-2-1A class.
Collegiate is going to be strong in singles as its two entrants are expected to reach Saturday’s semifinals. The Bullpups hope to match that with Nowak and Snell, provided the bracket falls right.
In doubles, the Bullpups will have the top seed. Collegiate isn’t as strong in doubles as in the past, as it was second and sixth, respectively, last week in the regional.
MHS’ other doubles team of Jackson Schrader and Rhett Edmonson took fourth in the regional. For the Bullpups to win it all, they most likely need a Top 8 finish.
Don’t be surprised if the outcome isn’t decided until the final match is completed. It could be that close.