Sam Hawley gave it his best effort but in the end, the pain in his knee was just too unbearable for the William Chrisman senior.
His tennis career and athletic career for the Bears came to an end Wednesday night as the team lost 7-2 to Noland Road rival Truman at Santa Fe Trail Park Tennis Complex.
Hawley played two tennis matches and a golf match in a three-day span but the week-old injury was too much to overcome in his singles match against Aaron Muller, who won 6-5 when Hawley withdrew from the match.
The injury happened the previous week in a challenge match, with Hawley hearing a pop and falling to the ground with a deafening scream. He remembers all his teammates on the other courts went silent as he laid on the court.
Their leader, who has been a captain the past three years, was hurt. He wore a brace on the knee and plans to go to a doctor soon to see what exactly happened.
"I wouldn’t miss these games for the world," said Hawley, whose dad, David, is an assistant tennis coach for the Bears. "It is really special. I’m still sort of out of words about what to say. I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to get to play one last time to represent my school and play with my teammates."
Shortly after the match, after changing out of his gold Chrisman uniform, Hawley pulled on a gray T-shirt with the Northwest Missouri State Bearcat paw logo with the block ‘N’ inside it.
While his sports playing career is over as he heads into college, Hawley will still be around a sport at Northwest.
He will serve as a manager for the men’s basketball team, one of the best programs in Division II. He first reached out to head coach Ben McCollum about a spot on the bench helping the Bearcats. The two student managers this past season were seniors: Justin Dickerson and Reid Titus.
Hawley had connections with each one of them. Dickerson’s younger brother, Cameron, was on the Bears basketball team with Hawley. Titus, a Truman High School graduate and the second-leading scorer in Patriots basketball history, worked with Hawley on the summer paint crew for the Independence School District the past few summers.
In addition, Hawley’s close friend, Isaiah Jackson, is going to be a guard for the Bearcats.
"It is really exciting to be part of the culture there," said Hawley, who will major in mathematics education and minor in sports management. "From what I heard, I can’t wait to be a part of it."
Hawley, who also lost 8-4 with Jordan Twenter in No. 1 doubles to Muller and Caleb Allen, hopes to get into coaching after college and perhaps return to Chrisman.
Chrisman coach Jason Grubb joked with Hawley that once he graduates, he should come back and he would fire David to bring Sam on board the staff.
Along with the knee injury this year, Hawley missed two matches last year due to an injury and his sophomore he took a tennis ball to his eye from a shot by his doubles partner in practice, which resulted in a broken retina.
"His story is easy to tell," Grubb said. "A lot of physical injuries but the best kid on the team and the hardest working kid. He is always hurting and always sore but he always competes. It makes me proud to be his coach."
Hawley and Brock Edwards were the two seniors to play all four years with Grubb. The other seniors were Sam Foster and T.J. Butt and all were honored prior to the match.
Grubb changed his lineup around a bit after the close loss to Truman on Monday but it didn’t help out as the Patriots took a 3-0 lead after doubles. The closest match was at No. 3, where Truman’s Connor Pointer and Bryan Veloz won 9-8, taking the tiebreaker 9-7 over Josh Huff and Hunter Butt, T.J.’s younger brother.
The match at No. 1 singles also went to a tiebreaker, with Allen beating Twenter 9-8 after taking the tiebreaker, 9-3. Twenter rallied from an 8-7 deficit to force the extra set, though Allen got the win to go 4-0 during the two-meet schedule.
The wins for the Bears came from Josh Huff, 8-4, at No. 4 against Juan Lopez, and David Keltner winning 8-1 at No. 5 versus Nate Neufeld.
Truman also got wins from Nate Morton (8-4 over Foster) at No. 3 and Pointer (8-5 over Nino Florido) at No. 6 singles.
"We got better from Monday to Wednesday," Truman coach Scott Lett said. "Both teams got better from Monday to Wednesday. Monday was extremely hot and we were jittery. A number of kids never played varsity before, but we took a step forward. Unfortunately the season is over.
"I had a number of people from other districts that expressed – I don’t know if jealousy is the right word – but jealous that we got to play. It is great for me coming out and having a return to normalcy. It was really nice."