Sean Nguyen stepped onto the courts at Baumgardner Park, just north of Blue Springs High School, and soaked in the sun.
The Blue Springs South junior, who burst on the prep tennis scene as a freshman two years ago, skipped his sophomore year to concentrate on studies, while playing club tennis throughout the metro area.
But Thursday afternoon, as he was joined by his Blue Springs South teammates, he felt like he was home.
Nguyen claimed the No. 1 singles match 6-2, 6-2 over crosstown rival Luke David, a senior for Blue Springs, then teamed with Will Sheridan to win the No. 1 doubles match 8-2 to lead the Jaguars to an 8-1 Suburban Big Six season opener against the Wildcats.
“I missed tennis with the Jaguars so much last year. I mean, I really missed it – the guys, our coaches, playing for our school and our fans,” Nguyen said as he was congratulated by teammates and South supporters. “I had so much going on last year – academics, NHS (National Honor Society), debate and other things – and it just got overwhelming. But all I thought about was coming back and playing tennis this year and I am so happy to be back.”
While the score might indicate great success, Nguyen praised David.
“Luke played great today – he challenged me and made me work hard,” Nguyen said of his opponent. “This is just a great way to open the season, with a strong match against a good opponent on a great spring day.”
It would have been impossible to wipe that smile off Nguyen’s face.
David even managed a smile, despite his loss.
“Sean is so good, I just wanted to compete today,” David said. “For him to say I challenged him and gave him a good match really makes me feel good. He’s one of the best, and to get a compliment from a great player like Sean is special.”
South’s Justin Cooper won 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2 singles; Sammy Klosener won at No. 3 6-4, 6-3; Sheridan won at No. 4 6-1, 6-3; Jason Epps needed a tiebreaker to win 6-1, 3-6, 12-10 at No. 5; and Kye Reid completed the singles sweep with a 6-1, 6-3 win.
Epps and Reid won 8-1 at No. 3 doubles and Josh Gordon and Jay’Von McKinney claimed the lone Wildcats win at No. 2 doubles, 8-1.
“It felt good to beat South at least once,” McKinney said. “It’s just great to get outside and play some tennis.”
Both coaches agreed it was nice to see the sun.
“We’ve either been inside, or just playing against ourselves for so long it was great to get out today and start the season against our crosstown rival,” South’s Nathan Mooney said.
“And of course, it’s wonderful to have Sean back at No. 1. The kids respect him so much and he’s a great player, kid and teammate. It makes a coach’s life a lot easier when you have a No. 1 player like him that you can count on.
“And all the guys really played well today. I’m proud of them.”
Anna Cole was proud of her Wildcats despite the loss.
“We played some good tennis today against a very, very good South team,” Cole said. “I’m proud of Jay’Von and Josh for their doubles win and all the guys for getting out there and working hard.”