Ethan Henry made it to the state boys tennis tournament last year as part of a Lee’s Summit doubles team. Now he’s trying to return as a solo act.
Henry got off to a good start on that goal Friday, when he cruised through three games to win the Class 2 District 14 singles tournament at Lee’s Summit North. Henry qualified for the Class 2 sectional tournament with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Chase Klosener of Blue Springs South in the semifinals and capped off his day by beating Blake Savidge of Truman 6-2, 6-1 in the final. The top two finishers in singles and doubles advance to the sectional taking place today at Lee’s Summit West.
Henry, of course, has been down this road before. The junior is now a three-time district champion, having won in singles as a freshman and in doubles last season, when he and Kevin Glenn went on to win their sectional and advance to the Class 2 state quarterfinals.
This time though, Henry said the path doesn’t feel quite the same.
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“It’s a lot different,” Henry said. “It’s nice to have a partner to rely on, to have your back. You’re just all on your own out there. But that’s what I’ve been working on this offseason to be a singles player. So I’m excited to have this chance.”
Henry is 17-1 in singles this season, so the adjustment has for the most part gone smoothly. Lee’s Summit tennis coach Megan Hobbs thought it was just a matter of Henry gaining more confidence in his already proven ability, and she has seen that coming lately.
“He’s powerful and he’s dangerous with anyone he gets on the court with,” Hobbs said. “He had some great wins here and he’s really stepped up his game the last couple of weeks.”
After getting a first-round bye, Henry beat Jordan Henry of Blue Springs 6-0, 6-1 in the quarterfinals to set up the match with Klosener. The only time he had any trouble was in the final, when Savidge and Henry were tied 1-1 in the first set before Henry took control.
“We were neck and neck at the beginning, and then I had a couple of games go my way,” Henry said. “I just began to trust my shots again and get comfortable and got into a rhythm.”
Lee’s Summit’s doubles team of Alec Cooper and Conner Lovelace almost joined Henry at sectionals but fell short in a hard-fought three-set loss to Wyatt Walker and Brady Dunlap of Blue Springs South. Cooper and Lovelace won the second set 7-6 on a tiebreaker after losing the first set 6-0, but fell 6-2 in the final set.
“They surprised us today,” Hobbs said. “You always want to see your players play their best at the end of the season and they gave it their all. I was very impressed by their level of effort and success.”
Lee’s Summit North’s Ben Durbin and Joe Hammerly almost broke through too, but also fell in a three-set battle against Blue Springs South’s Sean Nguyen and Dalton Michael 4-6, 6-0, 6-3. Nguyen and Michael lost to Walker and Dunlap in the all-Jaguars final 6-3, 6-2. Durbin and Hammerly went on to beat Cooper and Lovelace 10-4 for third place.
The sectional tournament winners will advance to the Class 2 states singles and doubles tournaments, which will take place at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.