Freshman Dalton Michael made the most of his first moment in the spotlight Thursday afternoon at Young Park.
Blue Springs South's No. 6 singles player withstood a challenge from Blue Springs' Aidan Martin to claim a 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 victory to clinch the fourth-straight Class 2 District 14 team championship for the Jaguars.
“All the guys were down watching my match, because most of them were finished with their matches,” the freshman said after South's 5-0 victory – sweeping all the singles matches in the district final.
“It was great. It was so cool to know that my match was the one that decided the district championship. I won the first set 6-0 and was leading 3-0 in the second set and he came back to win. I just had to settle down and play my best to get the win – and I was able to do that.”
Senior Paul Province won the No. 1 singles match 6-0, 6-3 over Mitchell Wilhoit; Jose Garchitorena topped Sam Phillips 6-4, 6-0; Jared Martin slipped past Blake Summers 6-2, 7-5; and Eric Horn defeated Jordan Young 6-4, 6-1 to set up Michael’s match-clinching win. Nic Mandina was trailing Spenser Morgan 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 1-2 in the No. 4 match when play was called.
“To have a freshman clinch the championship is pretty cool,” Province said. “It's just cool that we played so well against our big crosstown rival. Last time we played them in conference, we started out with doubles and we lost three singles matches.
“Today, we upped our game. We were pretty determined to win this district championship, and I think we played some of our best tennis of the season today.”
First-year Jaguars coach Nathan Mooney said Michael and his teammates looked sharper than the last meeting with the Wildcats.
“Last time we played them, 1-2-3 singles teams won and 4-5-6 lost, so we challenged the kids today,” Mooney said. “And they really accepted the challenge – especially Dalton. That kid smoked him last time they played.
“Today, Dalton won the first set 6-0 and is leading in the second set when the kid comes back and wins. Dalton showed a lot of composure and maturity to win the match. He loves being a freshman on the varsity team, and all the guys really enjoy being around him.
“He's just a great kid and good competitor. Today, the guys just went out and took care of business. Paul is just on fire right now, playing some of his best tennis of the season.”
Wildcats coach Jody McClain walked away with a second-place plaque and a big smile on her face.
“Certainly we are disappointed the way we played today,” McClain said, “but yesterday, we beat Lee's Summit North to get here to the district championship. It's been a good week for the boys. We wish we'd have played better today, but we're happy with the second-place plaque, especially when you play a solid team like South.
“Nathan has done a great job with his kids.”
The Jaguars advanced to their 10th-straight state team playoff appearance, and will meet the District 15 champion, Rockhurst or Park Hill South, in team sectionals on May 24.