If the Class 4A State Tennis Tournament follows the rules of succession, then McPherson High’s Ryan Horton and Peter Horton will walk off the court sometime Saturday in Winfield as the state doubles champions.
The Horton twins were third in the state last year and are the top-ranked returning team. They are 29-6 and strolled through last week’s regional, the toughest challenge coming from teammates Dylan Stos and Luke Williams, who themselves envision a high finish as they are 26-10.
The Hortons already have experienced the emotional high of a state championship as they were catalysts for the Bullpups’ 4A basketball team. They also have been through the pressure of a state tournament and that should help them when it gets down to pressure situations.
“I do think the Hortons can win it,” MHS coach Tyler Brown said. “They need to play to their potential to do so and if they are on I think they can really put it on a few teams.”
Other regional doubles champions from last week were Sam Hilger-Josh Hilger (15-3) of Independence, Luke Powell-John Schultz (18-4) of Miege and Cameron Davis-Jacob Thompson (25-7) of Andover Central.
MHS enters the tournament ranked No. 2 and if it’s to have any chance at all for the state title, Stos and Williams are going to have to come up big. Top-ranked Topeka Hayden most likely will finish 1-2 in singles as brothers Tommy (30-2) and Blake (24-4) Hunter appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the field.
“My (No.) 2s, I believe, are a solid Top 8 team, but will need to beat a regional champion to break into the semis,” Brown said. “But I think they can definitely do it especially if they end up with the right matchup.”
MHS also qualified Kento Aizawa (18-13) in singles and any matches he can win will be a bonus since he was fourth in the regional.
“Kento will be huge key for team points,” Brown said. “He needs to find his way through the draw to hopefully just make it to Day Two. If that happens I think we can meet our goal.”
In addition to the Hunters, Topeka Hayden advanced one of its doubles teams. Bishop Miege had the top two doubles finishers in regional action and also pushed through a pair of singles players to get all six in. Andover Central also qualified all six players, while Independence moved both doubles teams through and a singles player. DeSoto qualified both doubles teams and a singles player as well, though none of them finished higher than third.
“There is always a chance to catch Hayden,” Brown said. “Things would have to be just so. But you never know. A realistic goal would be to place in Top 3 as a team.”
Friday's action starts at 11:30 a.m. at the T.H. Vaughn Tennis Center. Saturday's play begins at 9 a.m.