In 2017, Hayden Brauer and Colby Swift left the state tournament with a sour taste in their mouths and not entirely because of the tennis.
“They were at each other,” Valley Center coach Dean Schulz said. “Hayden is ultra competitive, and Colby is a soccer player that’s trying to play tennis. They really got under each other’s skin. They finished eighth and probably could have done a little better.”
A year later, the pair split up. Swift joined another doubles partner while Brauer entered state as a single player. They helped Valley Center to not only its first boys tennis team state championship but the school’s first title in any boys sport. But Brauer and Swift wanted more.
The pair came together in 2019, and Saturday at Topeka’s Kossover Tennis Center, they became state champions for the second time. Brauer and Swift beat Salina Central’s Reed McHenry/Max Shaffer 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 to become the Hornets’ first individual state tennis champions.
The championship match was a mirror of the pairs’ regional title in McPherson the week before. Brauer/Swift went down 6-1 in the first set. The Salina Central pair punched them in the teeth, but Schulz said it is in his group’s nature not to panic.
Brauer and Swift didn’t and came back in the second set, won three straight games and clinched the set 6-4. During the charge, Salina Central called for a line judge after a call was questioned.
“I really don’t think it fazes our kids,” Schulz said. “If you have the momentum and you stop play because you think your opponent is making bad calls, all of a sudden, that momentum switches to the other side.”
The Valley Center pair had its stumbles at the state tournament, dropping three games in its opening set against Arkansas City’s Colby Klotz and Braden Hilario, who finished fifth in their regional. In the state quarterfinals, it got worse.
Against Maize South’s Jack Jewett and Noah Spurgeon, the Hornets dropped the first set 5-7. They needed 11 games to close the Mavericks 6-5 in the second set and closed 6-4 in the tiebreaker.
Bending without breaking was Brauer and Swift’s calling card late this season. Although there were multiple points through the regional and final rounds of their high school careers where they could have folded, Swift said after the first set, they changed it up.
“Hayden told me, ‘We’ve got to do something different,’” Swift said. “‘We’ve got to move around, catch them off guard and do some wild things.’ That’s what we did, and we started to hit our shots.”
Brauer and Swift finished their senior season with a 33-1 record, AVCTL II title, Class 5A regional title, a doubles state championship and a team title from 2018. They have the most wins of any Hornets doubles team in school history, and Schulz said they have gone a long way in turning Valley Center into a state power and inspiring a younger generation.
“It’s unbelievable to think that we’ve made it this far,” Brauer said. “All the hard work that we’ve put in has paid off.”
Salina Central back on top
Throughout the 2000s, Salina Central was one of the most dominant teams in Kansas high school boys tennis, but the Mustangs fell off in 2015.
After winning 10 state championships from 1998-2014, Salina Central slipped further down the state leaderboard with a low point in 2017, finishing with just seven team points. The Mustangs were 23 points off the title.
Saturday, they got back.
With a group of freshmen and sophomores, Salina Central put a nail through the Class 5A field in 2019, winning 40-28 over Maize South. The Mustangs brought all six potential players to state, and all earned top 11 finishes.
- Reed McHenry/Max Shaffer, runner-up
- Braden Stack/McCabe Green, fourth
- Collin Phelps, seventh
- Austin Beatty, 11th
The Mustangs went 14-7 and will bring its entire lineup back in 2020 and 2021.
“We always talk about ‘Mustang family, Mustang team,’” coach Mike Goll said. “This week they gained the experience, so the next two years, everybody will know who they are. We’re going to have a target on our back, which is exactly what we want.”
Wichita knocks on 4A’s door
Trinity Academy and Buhler were just held off the top of the Class 4A standings in 2019.
The Knights finished runner-up by five points, and the Crusaders came in third by nine to champion Topeka Hayden. But Buhler did not drive out of Pratt without a champion as juniors Camrin and Carter Engelken won the doubles title 6-3, 6-3 over Abilene’s Cody Schiffner and Luke Kohler. The Engelkens finished the season 24-8.
The doubles teams met a week ago at their Class 4A regional in Buhler. The hosts won that title match as well and carried that confidence and momentum into championship weekend. They mark the first Buhler doubles team to win state since 1992.
Trinity brought a full team to state but couldn’t break through the top four. Regional champion Drew Majors took fifth. Houston Wiemar finished seventh. And the Knights’ doubles teams of Noah Pennington/Joey Vigilus and Kory Rash/Cole Mathews earned sixth and 11th-place finishes respectively.
Circle came further down the leaderboard in sixth, but the Thunderbirds were represented in the Class 4A singles championship as junior Carson Mosier came runner-up to Topeka Hayden’s Sean Sandstrom 6-2, 6-1.
Maize South comes second
The Mavericks had their best season in school history.
Capped with a Class 5A regional title over the likes of Bishop Carroll, Kapaun Mt. Carmel and Arkansas City, Maize South came runner-up at state in 2019 to Salina Central 40-28.
Maize South brought all six potential qualifiers to state and had five, two doubles teams and a singles player, finish in the top eight.
- Jaden Tredway, sixth
- Garrison Wright/Grayson Wright, sixth
- Jack Jewett/Noah Spurgeon, eighth
Jewett is the lone senior on the 2019 squad, and with a strong incoming freshman class anticipated, Maize South will be knocking on the door for years to come.