Pembroke Hill senior March Zheng has played Clayton’s Mac Rechan at least a dozen times since they were 10 years old.
Zheng had beaten him just twice prior to Friday. But Zheng won the biggest high school match between the two on the biggest stage of high school tennis. Zheng defeated Rechan, the defending Class 1 singles champion 6-0, 6-3 in the quarterfinals Friday at the Cooper Tennis Complex.
“It was a little disheartening when I found out that I was playing Mac in the quarterfinals since I had lost to him in the semifinals when I was a sophomore,” said Zheng, who will be playing at Emory University in Atlanta in the fall. “I have never beaten anyone like this in high school.”
As the score would indicate, Zheng took control from the very first game of the match.
“I know that Mac did not play near his best, but I came out focused and ready to play,” Zheng said. “I just wanted to play my game, keep up with him and hopefully get in his head. It was a huge win for me.”
Zheng moves on to Saturday’s semifinals where he will face MICDS sophomore Tyler Raclin. The two faced each other for the first time in the team competition Thursday. Raclin won the first set 6-1 but Zheng rebounded and the second set was tied 4-4, 30-30 when the match was stopped after MICDS won the fifth and deciding match.
“I think it is definitely an advantage having played him Thursday,” Zheng said of Raclin. “I understand his game now and know exactly what I have to do. I am going to be more hungry and playing with a lot of confidence tomorrow. I know I won a big match, beating the defending champion, but I also realize that I still have a long road to go.”
Zheng is the only area player to make it to the semifinals in Class 1 singles. Barstow’s doubles team of Steven Ketchmark and Ben Abbas were dominant in moving to the semifinals in Class 1. They only lost seven games in their two matches and defeated Pembroke Hill’s Noah Bortnick and Josh Bortnick 6-3, 6-0 in the quarterfinals.
Blue Springs South senior Paul Province assured himself of his first state medal with a pair of wins in Class 2 singles. His quarterfinal win came against Jacob Kanter of Parkway Central. Kanter earned a medal at last year’s tournament by winning the consolation championship.
“I played doubles last year (with Alec Barber) and the goal was to be all-state,” Province said. “We came up one match short and that left a sour taste in my mouth. I really wanted that medal and after seeing the bracket I thought it could happen if I played well. Luckily, I played one of my best high school matches today (against Kanter).”
Province has a 26-3 record and one of those losses came against Rockhurst’s Alex Koca, who will be his opponent in Saturday morning’s semifinal.
“I reached my goal but I want to keep going,” Province said. “I know he is going to be tough to beat. I am just going to play relaxed and try to give him a fight.”
Koca had a very difficult draw but won two matches against arguably the best two Class 2 players from the St. Louis area. Koca defeated Alex Pozo of CBC 6-4, 6-4 in the first round and then beat Arashi Cogan of Parkway South 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. Pozo is a three-time state medalist.
Area teams will fill three of the four slots in the Class 2 doubles semifinals. Lee’s Summit West’s Franklin Zhong and Aaron Cunningham will play Rockhurst’s Jack Evans and Joseph O’Connor in one semifinal, while defending champions John Nogalski and Jacob Moore of Rockhurst will face Rohit Rao and Jacob Majors of Rock Bridge in the other semifinal.
All semifinal matches in both classes are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with the championship matches slated for 1 p.m.