When junior Sean Nguyen returned to the Blue Springs South High School tennis team this season, after sitting out his sophomore year to concentrate on academics, there were a few conditions that coach Nathan Mooney was happy to accommodate.
“Sean is a great student/athlete – academically, he is No. 1 in the junior class – and when he came back to the team this year, we knew he was going to miss some matches,” said Mooney, who moved every player up a slot in singles and doubles play and added No. 1 junior varsity player Keir Bowling to the No. 6 singles slot and came away with an 8-1 victory over coach Randy Draper’s Eagles Tuesday afternoon at the Grain Valley High School tennis complex.
Nguyen was competing in a HOSA (Future Health Professionals, formerly known as Health Occupations Students of America) state competition at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, and missed Tuesday’s match.
“We’d love to have Sean at every match, but he has a lot of other commitments and today as one of them, so we moved Justin Cooper up to No. 1 singles and he and Sam Klosener were our No. 1 doubles team and they did great,” Mooney said. “I thought all the guys accepted the challenge presented to them today, and Coach Draper’s kids played hard, like they always do. It’s great to come away with a match when your kids rise to the occasion, and that’s what our players did today.”
Cooper gained a 10-5 win over Joel Florida at that No. 1 singles slot and he and Klosener downed Florida and Trent Tarrants 8-0 in doubles.
“I really don’t see much difference between No. 1 and No. 2,” Cooper said. “You’re going to play a good player at either No. 1 or No. 2. We know that Sean is going to miss some matches this season and we all had fun today moving up a spot in the lineup.”
Bowling, playing in his first-ever varsity match, worked hard to get a 10-8 victory over Tristin Whitton at No. 6 singles.
“It was my first varsity match and (Whitton) told me it was his first varsity match too, so it was exciting for both of us,” Bowling said. “I’m a junior and I want to work my way up to varsity and this is a way to do it. I really wanted to win today and I was able to do it.’
Klosener downed Dean Mobley 10-6 at No. 2 singles; Will Sheridan beat Tarrants 10-5 at No. 3; Jason Epps rolled to a 10-1 win over Jesse Arnold at No. 4; and Kye Reid slipped past Bryson Martin 10-6 at No. 5.
Sheridan and Epps defeated Mobley and Arnold 8-3 at No. 2 doubles, and the lone Eagles win of the day came at No. 3 doubles with Martin and Brady Slater topping Reid and Bowling 8-5.
“Our kids were very competitive today and gave South a good match, and that’s what we were looking for,” Draper said. “I thought our doubles teams were very competitive and I was happy that Bryson and Brady were able to get that win.”
Martin and Slater were beaming from ear to ear following their doubles win.
“I think Brady and I complement each other pretty well in doubles,” Martin said. “It was great to get a win today and keep from losing all our matches, even though a lot of them were competitive.”
Added Slater: “I love the sport of tennis and I love this team. We’re having a good time, and I think we’re going to keep getting better as the season goes on.”