High School Sports

Collegiate brothers eager to play doubles in 4A tennis tourney

Collegiate senior Andrew Murphy, left, and his brother Ben, a junior, started playing doubles together and hope to do well at the state championships this weekend.
Collegiate senior Andrew Murphy, left, and his brother Ben, a junior, started playing doubles together and hope to do well at the state championships this weekend. The Wichita Eagle

Collegiate tennis coach Dave Hawley expects his doubles players to talk to each other between points. Maybe they’ll make a specific strategic point or throw out a simple but emphatic “let’s go!”

But Hawley has to keep encouraging Andrew and Ben Murphy to speak up.

“Andrew’s not really a talker,” Hawley said. “He just basically plays.”

The brothers, who will play in the Class 4A tournament on Friday and Saturday in Topeka, can easily get by without talking much because they know each other so well.

Winfield’s Elijah and Gavin Crowe, who are 25-10 and playing in the 4A tournament, are in the same situation.

“We’ve been playing together since we were small,” Elijah Crowe said. “We pretty much know what each other is thinking without saying anything.”

The Crowes — Elijah is a junior, Gavin a sophomore — told coach Brian Shaw last season that they wanted to play together.

“I said, ‘Well, you know what? That sounds like a good idea to me,’ ” Shaw said. “… They don’t get down, and they help the other one stay positive. I think it gets them fired up a lot easier than if they weren’t brothers.”

The Murphys — Andrew is a senior, Ben a sophomore — only partnered for one regular-season tournament.

Hawley doesn’t select his varsity lineup until late in the season and rarely has his whole team travel to the same tournaments because he evaulates his players all season.

This is especially critical when it comes to doubles teams. While he’s looking for compatibility, he wants to make sure he puts the best two players together.

“There are times where their personalities mesh, others have grown together,” Hawley said. “Then there are other times you’re kind of hoping to capture maybe a partnership that doesn’t always show up in practice.”

Collegiate’s doubles players compete with a variety of partners and then Hawley evaluates the combination. While Collegiate’s No. 1 doubles team of Austin Gartner and Matt Regehr is 13-0 and were regional champs, they still played doubles with multiple partners.

Narrowing down to that final six players before regionals was difficult for Hawley.

“It was even,” Andrew Murphy said. “… We had seven great tennis players, and it’s just difficult to leave a couple out. A lot of these people would easily make the top six at a lot of other schools.

“I’m glad to be here. I’m just happy to be here and hope to have a good state tournament.”

The best and worst part of partnering siblings is their established relationship.

The negative? Arguments.

It’s easier to get mad at a sibling than a classmate, so sometimes there are snarky comments.

“But we’ve learned not to get mad at each other and not get down on ourselves,” Ben said.

Both sets of brothers have skill sets that complement each other.

Elijah Crowe has a powerful serve, while Gavin Crowe returns serves well.

“The big difference is from the start of last year to the end of this year that they’re just more aggressive,” Shaw said. “They’re always attacking the net. They’ve played well this year, and we’ve played a lot of good teams.”

The Murphys are different, as well.

“Andrew can put shots away with alarming ease when he’s on his game. He’s left-handed and he has a powerful overhead and a powerful volley,” Hawley said.

“Ben has great court coverage and he has great angles. He does a really nice job at finding and open shot and hitting it.”

As for who’s bettter, the Murphys agree that it’s Ben, although the question elicited a laugh from Andrew.

“But he plays a lot more than me,” Andrew said. “He’s really good at hitting ground strokes… but I play other sports, so I can say I’m better in other sports.”

Joanna Chadwick: 316-268-6270, @joannachadwick

State boys tennis

When: 11:30 a.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: 6A at Prairie Village, 5A at Maize South, 4A at Topeka, 3-2-1A at Riverside Tennis Center