Justin House provided a feel-good moment in what turned out to be a rough first day for Kansas City area tennis players at the Missouri boys state tennis tournament at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.
House became the first state qualifier in the history of the two-year St. Michael the Archangel High School in Lee’s Summit.
And he also became the first player from that school, which replaced Archbishop O’Hara, to win a match at state.
“It just feels awesome just to be here,” said House, who earned his ticket to state with a sectional win over Pembroke Hill’s Aarav Yaralagadda.
He was hoping to get a win at the state meet and he took advantage of a friendly draw and defeated Alex Fincher of Moberly, 6-4, 6-3, in the opening round.
”I thought I played really well in the first set and then got a little tired,” House said. “I was broken a couple of times, but I was able to hang in there and get the win.”
The friendly draw quickly became unfriendly as he had to play defending Class 1 singles champion Evan Erb of MICDS in the quarterfinals. House was able to get a game off the champ, but only one, falling 6-1, 6-0.
”I knew he was a state champion, and he played like it,” House said. “He was definitely solid in all phases of the game. He was very consistent and is the second best player I have faced, behind only (Barstow’s) Bradley Frey (who is now playing at USC).”
St. Michael coach Owen Shields was impressed with the play of House, even in the decisive loss to Erb.
”He came up to me after the last changeover and despite being down 1-6, 0-5 and said he really wanted to win at least one more game,” Shields said. “That is how he is. He never stops fighting. He has that kind of determination.”
House won another match, 6-1, 6-2 over Aiden Patterson of Fulton, in the consolation quarterfinals. That assured him of a medal.
But the first two days of the state tournament did not provide many highlights for Kansas City area teams.
Pembroke Hill and Rockhurst each finished third in the team tournament on Thursday.
Pembroke Hill lost to eventual champion John Burroughs 5-0 in the semifinals before rebounding for a 5-0 win over Thomas Jefferson in the third-place match in Class 1.
Rockhurst had a 2-1 advantage after doubles in its semifinal match against St. Louis University High. But the Junior Bills had four singles victories, three by freshmen, and won 5-3. The Hawklets defeated Joplin 5-2 in the third-place match.
Pembroke Hill’s Nathan Turtledove and Logan Stevens prevented a Class 1 St. Louis sweep. The Class 1 singles semifinals will feature players from John Burroughs and MICDS. Those teams also played for the Class 1 team title on Thursday with John Burroughs defending its championship.
John Burroughs also qualified both of its doubles teams to the semifinals in Class 1. Priory, another St. Louis team, also qualified a team to the semifinals.
But Turtledove and Stevens, both seniors, became the only area semifinalists in either class. They defeated John Loehr and Andrew Case of Jefferson City Helias, 6-0, 6-0 in the first round and then beat Sean Finnie and John Newell of Priory 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
Turtledove and Stevens will face Adam Zhao and Thomas Dobbs of John Burroughs in a Class 1 semifinal match Saturday at 9 a.m.
Talented Barstow freshman Richie King had the best shot of an area player to qualify in singles. King lost a first-round marathon match to Chase Nwamu of MICDS, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4. The match was the final one of the opening round to be completed, lasting two hours and 40 minutes.
Liberty’s Owen Mulcahy and Tyson Cowger, who were undefeated and on the top line of the Class 2 bracket, lost in the quarterfinals to Layton Wille and Calvin Faris of Lindbergh, 6-4, 6-3.
All championship matches are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Springfield.