LINDSBORG — It’s practically an aberration when a doubles tennis team finishes fifth in its regional, but then takes fifth at state the following week.
But that’s what the Smoky Valley duo of junior Trapper Bellah and freshman Nick Reinert accomplished on Sunday, helping the Vikings to a ninth-place finish at the Class 4A Tournament.
Bellah and Reinert fired the shot heard around the tournament on Friday when they upset potential state champions and the No. 1-seeded Hilger brothers of Independence in the second round.
McPherson High coach Tyler Brown said the Vikings’ stunning upset helped opened the door for the Bullpups winning the state championship and he threw testimonial bouquets to his county brethren in appreciation.
“Whatever Tyler said about me and how we helped them win a state championship is somewhat skewed,” Bellah said. “Tyler made a gutsy call, changing things at regionals that turned out to be huge. Great love for his team. I'm not sure they could have done it without making the change. I know it was very difficult to change it up, but I'm happy for him and the team on the final result, which was a team championship. What a great championship match. Both McPherson doubles teams played very well.”
Bellah also was happy for his doubles team, which was just 16-13 heading to state and probably an afterthought to schools not familiar with the Vikings.
“I am so proud of Trapper and Nick on their performance,” Bellah said. “I didn't think things looked too good for them after the seeding meeting, but they sure came to play. I told them that they are good enough to have a chance at a Top 4 finish, but I'm not to sure they believed me. Having to play the runner-ups and the No. 1 seed early in the tournament was not what we were hoping for, but the kids just played fearless. They lost the first set big, but found a way to win the second. Then in the super tiebreaker they just slammed the door on Indy. We started out the same way against McPherson in the quarters, 1-6, but then found a way to win the second set before dropping the third 4-6 but played extremely well.”
That figured to be the end of the road for Bellah and Reinert, but they weren’t finished as they continued their magic.
“After the first day I was so proud of the kids, but then I looked at what was ahead for them the second day,” Bellah said. “We had to start out with Abilene, who beat us early in the season 8-0 and we won 9-7 and then we had the Indy team again. I thought to myself, how in the world could we beat them again? Some how Trapper and Nick got it done. They played very well. Then finishing the day against a very good team from Winfield and winning in a tie-breaker 7-4. Amazing tournament for those two.”
The Vikings also sent singles player Drew Bochte to state, as well as the doubles team of Jarod Meier and Seth Yenni. While they didn’t make it to the second day, it was great experience. Bochte is a freshman, Yenni a sophomore and Meier a junior, which means all five Vikings will be back next year.