The Bishop Carroll boys tennis team didn’t realize how much a City League championship was worth until they didn’t have it anymore.
After winning at least a share of 10 straight titles, Carroll’s reign was ended last season by Kapaun Mount Carmel. Carroll’s Seth Law and Christian Nguyen remember the sinking feeling when they realized the streak had ended.
“It was really depressing last year,” Law recalled. “I mean, second place is still good, but we were sad to see that go. We had to make sure to bring it this time around and give it all we got.”
The rejuvenated Eagles overwhelmed their peers Saturday at the City League tournament, sending all four of their entries to the finals with Rodney Steven (No. 1 singles), Law and Nguyen (No. 1 doubles), and Jackson Oxler and Ty Stranghoner (No. 2 doubles) winning.
A year after being devastated, Law and Nguyen sat in the stands at the Coleman Tennis Complex at Wichita State University and laughed at how much different winning felt.
“We kind of joked last year that we lost because we didn’t have 11 fingers for the pictures,” Nguyen said. “But losing motivated us, for sure. We knew what we had to do and we came out today and did it.”
For Law and Nguyen, it was about redeeming their lone loss in league play to the East senior pair of Yash Kamath and Ryan O’Neal. The rematch, in the finals, was a stark contrast to how the Carroll duo played the first time around.
On Saturday, it was Law and Nguyen who were the aggressors. They controlled the net, and as a result, the match in their 6-2, 6-1 victory.
“What has impressed me the most about those two is that they’ve got better every match this season,” Carroll coach Darren Huslig said. “Today you saw them improve from the first match. They were the more aggressive team and they kind of turned the tables from last time.”
The warm weather during the peak of the afternoon spoiled what promised to be an exciting rematch between Steven and Heights sophomore Kerry Dunn, both of whom had recovered from injuries to reach Saturday’s final.
Dunn never appeared comfortable during the match, but it wasn’t due to the wrist injury that sidelined him for a month this season. It was actually cramps that forced Dunn to retire after losing the first set and trailing 4-2 in the second.
“I didn’t think it was as much the wrist as it was the heat and being out of tennis for about a month,” Heights coach Paul Biays said. “He’ll be ready for Regionals, but we just have to make sure he drinks plenty of liquids and is ready to go.”
The injury did not overshadow the stellar play of Steven, just a freshmen. Winning the league title in his first season has given him a new level of confidence, as the postseason rolls along.
“It feels really good to win,” Steven said. “Now I want to keep it going and see if I can do even better at Regionals and then state.”
Final standings—1. Bishop Carroll 18, 2. Kapaun Mount Carmel 16, 3. East 13½, 4. West 11½, 5. Heights 10½, 6. Northwest 8½, 7. Southeast 5, 8. North 4, 9. South 3.
Tournament scores—Bishop Carroll 70, Kapaun Mount Carmel 56, East 44, Heights 42, West 26, Northwest 25, Southeast 14, North 8, South 7.
No. 1 singles—1. Steven, Carroll, def. Dunn, Heights, 6-1, 4-2 (retired); 3. Searl, Kapaun, def. Gridley, East, 6-2, 6-2; 5. Minter, Northwest, def. Barnes, West, 9-8 (7-5); 7. Vizcarra, South, def. Dakis, Southeast, 9-3.
No. 2 singles—1. House, Kapaun, def. Swinicki, Carroll, 6-0, 6-4; 3. Nguyen, Southeast, def. Martinez, Heights; 5. Ramanan, East, def. Wiltse, Northwest, 9-7; 7. Sterner, North, def. Bhakta, West, 9-7.
No. 1 doubles—1. Law-Nguyen, Carroll, def. O’Neal-Kamath, East, 6-2, 6-1; 3. Miller-Lett, Kapaun, def. Carillo-Epperson, Heights, 6-2, 6-0; 5. Warren-Quintanur, West, def. Schmidt-Nickel, Northwest, 9-4; Stifler-Maldonado, North, def. Garza-Huynh, Southeast, 9-6.
No. 2 doubles—1. Oxler-Stranghoner, Carroll, def. Klumiuk-Moore, Kapaun, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3; 3. Leininger-Gibson, West, def. A. Hetrick-L. Hetrick, East, 6-1, 6-3; 5. Haight-Cipra, Northwest, def. Brady-Tran, Height; 7. Stratton-Stratton, South, def. Tatum-Martinez, North, 6-3.