It was going to be a tough task to advance to the state tournament for any area tennis player at the Class 2 Sectional 7 matches Wednesday at Hilltop Racquet Club in Kansas City.
State powerhouse Rockhurst swept the Class 2 District 13 tournament by earning sectional berths for both singles players and both doubles teams.
That presented tough matchups for both of Blue Springs South’s doubles teams – Dalton Michael and Sean Nguyen, and Brady Dunlap and Wyatt Walker – along with Truman singles player Blake Savidge. All of those players fell to their Rockhurst counterparts in the sectional round, coming just one win short of a state berth.
Dunlap and Walker, the No. 2 doubles team for South, pulled an upset against teammates Michael and Nguyen, the No. 1 doubles team, in the district championship. However, the duo was met with a jump in competition Wednesday, facing off against the Hawklets’ Graham Columbo and Owen Dixon.
After falling behind 5-2 in the first set, Dunlap and Walker battled back to 5-4 deficit. However, Columbo and Dixon won the final game of that set and breezed to a 6-0 victory in the second set to end the remarkable run for the Jaguar duo.
“They’re a great team and came out really strong today,” Dunlap said. “We just came out a little flat. We had them in the first half and just let up a little bit. We still had a great season. They’re aggressive and found out our weaknesses.”
One of the things the duo discussed before the match was not being intimidated by players from the Rockhurst juggernaut.
“Just because they are Rockhurst, everyone thinks they're really great and good at everything,” Dunlap said. “We tried to block that out and play our game.”
They did just that in the first set, but couldn’t come up with an upset victory. South coach Nathan Mooney said the defeat doesn’t take away from how well Dunlap and Walker played against a quality duo.
“They held some serves, and I thought that was a great way to end that first set,” Mooney said. “I know we didn’t win but we were doing everything right. We just missed some serves (in the second set).”
Nguyen and Michael had it even tougher as they faced off against Rockhurst’s two top singles players – Collin Klumb, who was part of the Class 2 state doubles championship team last season, and Henry Goeke. The Rockhurst twosome took the match 6-0, 6-1.
“Those guys are amazing,” Nguyen, a freshman, said of Goeke and Klumb. “We came out a little flat and they attacked the mat and really rolled. There wasn’t much we could do.”
Michael, a senior, made it to sectionals in doubles play twice and was happy he was able to have a shot to go to state on a pair of occasions.
“I am thankful I was able to get this far because some other people don’t,” Michael said. “To come back here was an honor.”
Overall, Mooney was pleased with his players’ seasons.
“We had the second most kids out here,” Mooney said. ”Four out of six of our kids were here. It’s good exclamation point to end the season.”
Though it will be a tall order again, the Jaguars have a chance to get revenge on Rockhurst today in the Class 2 team sectionals at 2:30 p.m. at Bennett Park in Liberty. The winner advances to the state quarterfinals later today against Park Hill or Liberty.
Truman’s Savidge had one big goal he wanted to meet this season – advance to state. He competed well with Donovan Walsh in the first set. He led 2-1 at one point but wasn’t able to hold on in a 6-4 first-set loss. He struggled to get the ball over the net for much of the match and that issue came back to bite him in a 6-1 second-set defeat.
“I struggled today, no doubt,” Savidge said. “Donovan is a good player. He went out and deserved this one. I did not. First set was contested and tight and I expended a lot of energy at that point. Second set, he just took control and I made more errors than I should have.”
Truman coach Scott Lett said Savidge’s loss was due to a well-executed game plan by Walsh.
“I think Donny had a smart game plan and kept the ball in the middle below the net and that threw Blake off,” Lett said.
Savidge (20-5), a two-time district champion and three-time sectional qualifier, will have one more crack at a state bid next season and he plans on putting in a lot of work over the summer.
“I am definitely going to work on my consistency,” the junior said. “I am trying to play a lot of upper-tier kids who will push me to get better, so I can get here and be ready next year.”