The top-ranked tennis team in Class 3-1A is a private school in Wichita, and no, it's not Collegiate, which has won four of the past five state championships.
It's Independent, a team with as much talent and depth as any in the state, which was evident by its tournament wins at Goddard and Salina, where they defeated Class 4A, 5A and 6A schools.
But the Panthers' No. 1 ranking has no validity until they can take down the Spartans in the postseason. It all starts Friday at regionals, which Collegiate is hosting.
"We have a very tough regional, though our goal is to get the whole team qualified for state and then see what happens," Independent coach Simon Norman said. "Hopefully we can put it all together for the next week and a half."
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Norman has used multiple combinations to fill out his lineup this spring. All of the mixing and matching was geared for these next two weeks. He wants each of his varsity players to have the flexibility to play any spot if called upon.
Last week at the Central Plain Tournament, where the Panthers won all four championship matches, Corban Aspergren played No. 1 singles, while Colten Anderson the No. 2. Jake Norman and Jacob Maddox were No. 1 doubles and Sam McCoy and Brandon King were No. 2 doubles.
"We are trying some different things, but we don't want to give too much away," Simon Norman said. "Collegiate is in the same position as we are, so we both don't know what each other is going to do."
Northwest rising — With most of its varsity players gone from last season's City League championship team, Northwest coach Mike Thomas wasn't surprised by the Grizzlies' fifth-place finish in the league this season.
But at the same time, he hoped that by the time postseason arrived, his team might be able to make some noise. Last week at the league tournament, Austin Haase and Daniel Depew took third as the No. 2 doubles, while Austin Awtrey took third at No. 2 singles.
"We do have a young team and only one varsity player this year graduates, so next year hopefully will be different," Thomas said. "We have talked as a team about what needs to be done this summer in order to get back to the top."
Northwest won a tournament at Collegiate and took second at Valley Center recently, so the Grizzlies are peaking heading into their regional Friday at Dodge City. But with perennial powers Maize and Goddard in its regional, Northwest won't have it easy.
"These teams in our regional have a long record of success," Thomas said. "Our kids are going to have to play well in order to qualify for state."