TOPEKA — The defending Class 4A state tennis champions didn’t give up their championship without a fight.
McPherson High, hoping for its first-ever team repeat, charged back with a terrific performance on Saturday, but Wichita Collegiate outlasted the Bullpups 47-44 for the title.
The two teams had waged a season-long battle for the top spot and they left the rest of the field in its wake. Topeka Hayden, on the strength of Tommy Hunter’s fourth straight state singles title, wound up outlasting Independence 29-20 for third.
The Bullpups, just as they were last year, were consistent, but they didn’t have a champion this time.
The doubles team of Kento Aizawa and Nolan Schrader advanced to the finals, but lost 6-2, 6-3 to Miege’s Will Grier and John Schultz. MHS was trying for its third straight state doubles title.
Aizawa and Schrader had gutted out a three-setter in the semifinals against Jason Reilly and Jason Thompson of Andover Central. After losing the first set 6-4, it was all Bullpups as they settled down for 6-0, 6-2 wins.
Schrader was a state champion last year with Gallagher Martin, while Aizawa — the team’s only senior qualifier — finished second in the state in doubles for the second year in a row as he partnered in 2015 with Luke Williams.
MHS’ other doubles team of Kaden Stewart and Hadley Hageman made a nice comeback as after losing in the first round, they roared back through the consolation bracket to take ninth, earning valuable team points. Also in doubles, Smoky Valley’s Trapper Bellah and Nick Reinert were sixth, one place behind their performance from last year.
In singles, the Bullpups’ Jarrod Nowak and Andrew Snell had to play each other once again, this time for fifth place. Nowak came away with a 9-1 victory and it was the second state finish for Snell, who was fourth in singles last year.
Hayden’s Hunter was in a class by himself in singles. He defeated Independence’s Nick Schroeder 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals and then dispatched with Collegiate’s Lakelin Conrad 6-0, 6-1 in the finals.
Collegiate won the title by taking second and eighth in singles, while placing third and seventh in doubles.
The future is bright for MHS as Nowak is just a freshman, while Schrader, Snell and Stewart are sophomores. In addition, Hageman is a junior.
Unfortunately, Collegiate also is underclassmen dominated. The Spartans lose only doubles player Andrew Murphy, while four of their state qualifiers were juniors and Conrad is a sophomore, meaning he’ll be the player to beat next year in singles.