LSJ Sports

Tigers try to fight on without No. 1 player

Lee’s Summit senior Colton Hess hits a return shot during the No. 1 doubles match against Blue Springs South in the Class 2 District 14 tennis tournament May 9 at Lee’s Summit. Hess and his brother Hunter won the match, but the Tigers lost 5-3.
Lee’s Summit senior Colton Hess hits a return shot during the No. 1 doubles match against Blue Springs South in the Class 2 District 14 tennis tournament May 9 at Lee’s Summit. Hess and his brother Hunter won the match, but the Tigers lost 5-3. dmcqueen@kcstar.com

With their undisputed team leader and No. 1 player suddenly relegated to the role of cheerleader, Lee’s Summit’s tennis team had some reorganizing and regrouping to do.

Lee’s Summit had to face Blue Springs South in the Class 2 District 14 team final May 9 without Ethan Henry, a two-time state tournament qualifier who was putting together another dominating season along with his team. A stress fracture in his right elbow put an end to his senior season and forced the Tigers to reshuffle their lineup.

But even without Henry, Lee’s Summit battled Blue Springs South to the final two matches before falling 5-3 on the Tigers’ home courts. It was a disappointing ending to a remarkable 14-2 season, but Lee’s Summit coach Megan Hobbs found consolation in how hard the Suburban Gold Conference champion Tigers fought without their top player.

“We told them to come out and fight, fight for their teammates, fight for their captain, fight for their school,” Hobbs said. “And they did exactly that.”

Henry had been a part of that fight since his freshman year at Lee’s Summit. As a sophomore he went 32-0 in doubles with Kevin Glenn and reached the Class 2 state quarterfinals. Last year he went 22-2 in singles and finished fifth at state.

But a sore arm that plagued Henry from the start of his senior season grew steadily worse. An MRI exam last week revealed the stress fracture, and Henry was ordered to rest his arm and not play for two months.

“He has been working through the arm injury for quite some time now,” Hobbs said. “The arm finally gave up on him and sometimes you have to rest to get better.”

With Henry gone, Hobbs moved all the Tigers’ singles players up a notch as well as the top two doubles teams. They got by Truman 5-3 in the semifinals the day before, but they knew it would be a tougher challenge against a Blue Springs South team they squeaked by 5-4 during the regular season.

Lee’s Summit led 2-1 after the three doubles matches with brothers Colton and Hunter Hess winning at No. 1 doubles and Collin Hansen and Kaleb Wilbert coming through at No. 3.

But Blue Springs South, the defending district team champion, won four of five singles matches, with Caleb Heeney’s 6-3, 6-3 victory over Justin Cooper at No. 6 the Tigers’ only victory. Wyatt Walker clinched the victory for the 13-5-1 Jaguars with a hard-fought 6-2, 7-6(7-4) win over Hunter Hess in No. 2 singles.

“With the loss of our No. 1 and a lot of switching, we had a lot of tough fights,” Colton Hess said. “But I think we played good and the best that we could at the positions we were at the time.”

Hess and Lee’s Summit will get to compete again May 11 in the district singles and doubles tournaments at Santa Fe Park in Independence.

Titans ousted

Lee’s Summit West fell to Rockhurst 5-0 in the Class 2 District 13 final at Rockhurst. West, which beat Raymore-Peculiar 5-1 in the semifinals, finished with an 8-6 record.

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