Wichita Collegiate’s boys tennis team has raised the bar.
Now it’s up to McPherson High to clear it.
The Spartans and Bullpups have waged a season-long battle for Class 4A supremacy, continually flip-flopping in the state rankings.
The Bullpups had quite a tenure at the top, but after the Spartans won all four head-to-head matches — most of them being close — at the league meet, not to mention they had defeated MHS in their own tournament, it’s Collegiate that’s the hunted and the Bullpups playing the role of the hunter.
We’ll finally come to a conclusion on Friday and Saturday at the Topeka Kossover Tennis Center when the Class 4A State Tournament is played out. Friday’s play begins at 11:30 a.m., with Saturday’s action starting at 9 a.m.
The Bullpups are the defending state champions and have four of their six players back from that team. But Collegiate, now that it finally has put together its best team after some revolving lineups early in the season, will be tough to catch.
Independence and Topeka Hayden are the only other teams that are expected to have a realistic shot at the title.
“Collegiate will be the heavy favorite at state and Indy may not be far behind,” MHS coach Tyler Brown said. “Collegiate probably can get one to even as many as three of their fields to the semifinals. That's what we were able to do last year. Andrew Snell, along with our doubles teams of Nolan Schrader and Gallagher Martin plus Kento Aizawa and Luke Williams, all made it to semifinals last year and to top it off Kaden Stewart finished inside the Top 10.”
In singles, it’s generally conceded that Hayden’s Tommy Hunter will walk off with his fourth straight state title. But there’s about five players who will contend for the other three semifinal spots, including MHS’ Snell and Jarrod Nowak. Collegiate’s Lakelin Conrad is thought by many to be the second-best player, with his teammate Easton Ewy not far behind.
“In the singles draw we will need some luck since the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds will rely on a coin flip most likely,” Brown said. “If it goes our way we have the opportunity to hopefully stay close to teams like Collegiate and Indy. But in the last few years teams that have won state or been runner-up have had at least two fields finish Top 5. We will need to play some of our best tennis this year in order for that to happen.”
Nowak enters 28-5, while Snell is 20-8. Snell was fourth in the state last year, while third-place Zack Schroeder of Independence also is back, as the singles field is much stronger.
To win, the Bullpups most likely need Top 5 finishes from both doubles teams. Kento Aizawa and Nolan Schrader are 26-2, while Kaden Stewart and Hadley Hageman are 19-8. Smoky Valley’s Trapper Bellah and Nick Reinert, who really pushed Aizawa and Schrader last week, will be another formidable team. They were fifth at state last year and Viking coach John Bellah believes with the right draw, they can make a run for a semifinal berth.
Collegiate’s doubles teams were first and third in the regional last week. The brother team of Andrew and Ben Murphy has only played eight matches together this year (6-2), while its No. 1 team of Austin Gartner and Matt Regehr has not lost in 13 matches.