Veteran Collegiate tennis coach Dave Hawley has seen close point battles go against his Spartans at the state tournament, including a one-point loss in 2015.
Saturday the nail-biting finish went Collegiate’s way, with the Spartans capturing the Class 4A state championship by a 47-44 margin over McPherson at the Kossover Tennis Center.
Collegiate was led by sophomore Lakelin Conrad’s second-place finish in singles, while the Spartans also got a third-place doubles finish from juniors Austin Gartner and Matt Regehr, a seventh-place doubles finish from senior Andrew Murphy and junior Ben Murphy and an eighth-place singles finish from junior Easton Ewy.
“Every (match) counts,” Hawley said. “It was so weird because we started the day on a really good roll. We won three straight matches that were really important matches and then we hit this valley.
“One match we had match points that we didn’t convert and another one we had a 5-2 lead in the third-set tiebreaker that we didn’t win and all of a sudden we’re thinking, “It’s getting away from us.’ But then at the right time the kids really rose up. They played great and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The team race went down to the wire, but the Spartans were able to hold off the Bullpups.
“We finished second by a point to Hesston a year ago in 3A and two years ago we finished second by three points to Kansas City Christian,” Hawley said. “We played well both years. We just didn’t really get the final breaks. This year we got the final breaks.”
Conrad, who finished his season 19-2, reached the singles championship match with a tough 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 semifinal win over Abilene junior Jacob Berven, but fell victim to Topeka Hayden senior Tommy Hunter 6-0, 6-1 in the final, with Hunter becoming the fifth boys singles player in state history to win four straight state singles titles.
“I feel like I played really well in my semi and it was a lot of fun playing in front of so many people in the final,” Conrad said. “Tommy played really well. This is a big improvement from last year (sixth in 3A).”
Hunter finished his senior season 34-0 and went 132-6 in his career.
“I played really smart,” said Hunter, who dropped only four games in eight sets on the weekend. “I could have hit some of my ground strokes better, but I couldn’t have played any smarter and I did capitalize on all my big points, and that’s what I had to do.”
Miege junior Will Grier and senior John Schultz won the state doubles championship, taking a 6-2, 6-3 win over McPherson’s Kento Aizawa and Nolan Schrader.
Second-place McPherson also got fifth and sixth-place singles finishes from freshman Jarrod Nowak and sophomore Andrew Snell and a ninth-place doubles finish from junior Hadley Hageman and sophomore Kaden Stewart.
Team – Wichita Collegiate 47, McPherson 44, Hayden 29, Independence 20, Miege 19, Andover Central 18, DeSoto 18, Abilene 14, Winfield 14, Smoky Valley 10, Paola 8, Buhler 6, Iola 5, Baldwin 1, Columbus 1, Spring Hill 1, Wellington 1, Wichita Trinity 1.
Singles – 1. Tommy Hunter, Hayden, def. Lakelin Conrad, Wichita Collegiate, 6-0, 6-1. 3. Zack Schroeder, Independence, def. Jacob Berven, Abilene, 6-1, 6-3. 5. Jarrod Nowak, McPherson, def. Andrew Snell, McPherson, 9-1. 7. Luke Zoller, DeSoto, def. Easton Ewy, Wichita Collegiate, 9-6. 9. Alex Zoller, DeSoto, def. Steven Deere, Winfield, 9-5. 11. Colby Works, Iola, def. Williams, Renton Andover Central, 9-6.
Semifinals – Hunter, Hayden, def. Schroeder, Independence, 6-1, 6-1; Conrad, Wichita Collegiate, def. Berven, Abilene, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4.
Doubles – 1. Will Grier-John Schultz, Miege, def. Kento Aizawa-Nolan Schrader, McPherson, 6-2, 6-3. 3. Austin Gartner-Matt Regehr, Wichita Collegiate, def. Jason Reilly-Jason Thompson, Andover Central, 6-3, 6-2. 5. Hayden Federico-Sean Sandstrom, Hayden, def. Trapper Bellah-Nick Reinert, Smoky Valley, 9-1. 7. Andrew Murphy-Ben Murphy, Wichita Collegiate, def. Eli Crowe-gavin Crowe, Winfield, 9-3. 9. Hadley Hageman-Kaden Stewart, McPherson, def. Peyton Graves-Justin Salisbury, Paola, 9-3. 11. WIll Schabel-am Hilger, Independence, def. Hank Goertzen-Hunter Wiehl, Buhler, 9-7.
Semifinals – Aizawa-Schrader, McPherson, def. Reilly-Thompson, Andover Central, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2; Grier-Schultz, Miege, def. Gartner-Regehr, Wichita Collegiate, 5-7, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5).