The first state champions in the Kansas high school spring sports season will be crowned on Saturday, as boys tennis state tournaments will take place at four sites on Friday and Saturday. Here are five storylines to monitor.
1. Team contenders
Six Kansas City-area schools qualified their entire teams out of regionals, which means they will have two singles players and two doubles teams contending for state titles.
In Class 6A, three-time defending state champion Shawnee Mission East brings a singles and doubles champion from the Lawrence Free State regional. Blue Valley Northwest, which won the BV North regional, will be led by its doubles champion team.
Blue Valley West swept the finals in the Class 5A St. Thomas Aquinas regional, with the top two finishers in both singles and doubles. St. James Academy also qualified its team from that regional.
De Soto did not have a champion in Class 4A, but was able to qualify its team for state.
Class 3-2-1A defending team champion Kansas City Christian brings its own singles and doubles champions from the Marysville regional.
2. Class 6A: Room to improve
Three of the top six finishers from last year’s Class 6A state tournament return, which seems to suggest another highly competitive run for the Kansas City area contenders.
The top returner is Jack Santilli of Shawnee Mission East, who was runner-up last year in singles. He won the singles title at the Lawrence Free State regional and brings in a 23-2 record.
Blue Valley’s Anil Patel, who placed third last year at state, defeated BV Northwest’s James Lowe to win the singles title at the BV North regional last week. It was a replay of last year’s third-place match, which Patel also won. He has a 17-3 record. Lowe, meanwhile, is 14-10.
Class 6A state competition begins at 11:30 a.m. at the College Boulevard Activity Center in Olathe.
3. Jaguars a force in Class 5A
Blue Valley West’s Max Kurzban, who placed fifth in the Class 6A state tournament last season, will have a new set of challenges in Class 5A.
Kurzban defeated teammate Hayden Smith to win the St. Thomas Aquinas regional singles title and enters the state meet with a 28-4 record. He placed second in the recent Eastern Kansas League tournament.
In doubles, Blue Valley West will be represented by regional champions Hunter Sanders and Ryan Moody. They have gone back and forth for first- and second-place finishes all season with the freshman duo of Bradley Mittleman and Hadley Cornish. The “Adleys,” as coach Traci Rhodes likes to call Mittleman and Cornish, have a slight edge record-wise with a 24-6 mark. Sanders and Moody are 19-6.
Class 5A state matches are set to start at 10:30 a.m. at Goddard High School.
4. Underdogs in Class 4A
Out of the four boys tennis classifications, Class 4A is the only one without a ranked team from the Kansas City area.
However, there are two schools receiving votes in De Soto and Bishop Miege.
De Soto qualified all six of its players from the Spring Hill regional last week. Luke Zoller is the Wildcats’ top entrant. He placed third in singles at regionals and teammate Alex Zoller finished sixth. Jackson Allman and Colton Hess placed fourth in doubles at regionals and Taylor Herron and Dustin Williams finished sixth.
Miege will be represented at state by a couple of singles players in Will Grier and John Schultz.
Class 4A state matches begin at 10:30 a.m. at Pratt High School.
5. Can KC Christian defend its title?
For the first time in school history, Kansas City Christian won the Class 3-2-1A team state title last season.
The Panthers have an experienced group returning to state this year, led by two-time singles champion Johnny Goodwin. Other key players are Alex Kartsonis and Jackson VanderArk, who finished third in singles last season at state.
KC Christian also has depth on the squad, with regional runners-up Turner Jones and William VanderArk in doubles and third-place singles finisher Mitchell Paul.
Class 3-2-1A will begin state competition at 11:30 a.m. at Baldwin High School.