Wichita Collegiate has built an impressive 3-2-1A boys’ tennis dynasty since Dave Hawley took the Spartans’ reins in 1977, winning 19 state championships. But the move up to Class 4A hasn’t been quite so kind in the past.
Collegiate finished third at 4A state in 2004 and was the runner-up in 2005, but after Saturday the Spartans finally have a 4A championship trophy to add to the collection.
“I would have to say this is easily one of the two or three hardest state tournaments we’ve ever been in,” Hawley said. “To win out over a field like this is simply amazing and that’s probably the biggest thing.”
While none of Collegiate’s entrants reached the finals at the Kossover Tennis Facility, the squad’s superior depth paved the way to the Spartans’ 20th state crown in the last 35 years.
“We felt like this was a chance for us to make a good, strong statement and the kids played great,” Hawley said. “We had some disappointing moments. We had some tough matches, but the thing I am most proud of is how we came back from that disappointment.”
For example, Collegiate’s top doubles pair, seniors Clay Holden and Hunter Morris, came up on the short end of a 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 semifinals battle Saturday morning against Independence’s Gavin Webster and Tyler Posch.
But Holden/Morris rebounded for a 7-6 (2), 6-2 win in the third-place match, taking out Parsons’ Parker Robertson and John Paul Hurley.
Sophomore Travis Osland didn’t let a bitter 5-7, 6-3, 10-8 quarterfinal loss Friday wreck his state tourney either, bouncing back to claim fifth with a 9-6 victory versus Spartans freshman Samuel Beren in the medal match.
“Every single kid we had here won at least two matches and contributed a lot to our point total,” Hawley said. “That’s the thing you like, that everybody jumped in and everybody did their part.”
Collegiate’s other doubles pair, senior William Short and sophomore Max Moxley, wound up 11th.
As expected, the singles title went to Smoky Valley senior Quinn Dippel for the third straight year. He cruised past Topeka-Hayden’s Blake Hunter 6-1, 6-1 in the final.
“Now that I’m done, I’m pretty relieved,” said Dippel, who signed with Creighton. “I was pretty nervous before that match actually, because he’s a good player and I wanted to get it done. I was more of a favorite this year, so there was a little more pressure.”
Dippel’s nerves weren’t helped by a 20-minute rain delay a few games into the final against Hunter, but it didn’t affect the way he played before or after the stoppage.
“I was pretty annoyed,” Dippel said. “I didn’t want to stop. We took a while to get on, and then I just wanted to stay on. I didn’t want to stop playing.”
Finally, after topping Holden/Morris in the semifinals, Webster/Posch went on to rally past Wellington’s top doubles tandem, senior Evan Keller and junior Brian Peck, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 for the doubles crown.
“We took a gamble,” Crusaders coach Brian Aufdengarten said. “Evan Keller has played singles for four years, but we made a switch at our league meet and the boys found it kind of fun. We decided Wednesday before regionals to move him to doubles.”
Keller/Peck rewarded Aufdengarten with a regional championship and came tantalizingly close to a state title as well.
“Independence just caught fire and we could not break their momentum,” Aufdengarten said. “Both our kids are big servers, but they were a good return-of-service team and I think that won them the match. They brought it back and a lot of times we weren’t ready for that.”