For the Greenback boys’ tennis team, it is fitting that its best season in over a decade culminated with its best showing at the 4A state tournament in as many years.
Pratt High sent two entries to the state championship hosted by Wichita Collegiate on Friday and Saturday, May 10 and 11. Senior Thomas Mayberry represented Pratt High in singles and Liam Kahmeyer and Christian Kurz, both juniors, played doubles.
By the end of the weekend, all three boys came home with state medals and a top-ten team finish.
Concluding his career as a four-year state qualifier and two-time state medalist, Mayberry’s 5-2 performance at the 2013 tournament was good enough for a 9th place finish in arguably the toughest field in all classes. Mayberry opened on Friday with a quick 6-2, 6-1 win over McPherson’s Dylan Stos. Unfortunately, the win pitted him against Topeka Hayden’s Blake Hunter, last year’s state runner-up. Mayberry put up a good battle, but fell 0-6, 0-6 to move to the backside of the bracket.
Needing two consecutive wins to stay alive for medal contention, Mayberry easily dispatched Tyler Wright of Buhler 9-2 and McPherson’s Conner Schafer 9-3 to earn the right to a place in the top 12 and continue play on Saturday.
Only the names changed for Kahmeyer and Kurz as they followed Mayberry’s pattern through the bracket. A tough 2-6, 7-6 (3), (10-2) opening round win over Schmidt and Thayer from Buhler lead to a match-up with Independence’s Posch and Webster, last year’s state doubles champions. After a 0-6, 1-6 defeat, the Pratt duo handled Circle’s Treweeke and Larson 9-4, then thrashed Russell and Heath from Topeka Hayden 9-1 to earn a state place.
After four long matches on Friday, Saturday’s 9 a.m. rolled around early for the Greenbacks as did two losses. Mayberry had to face a familiar foe in Sam Beren from Collegiate and lost 2-9. After a promising 2-0 start, Kahmeyer and Kurz fell 3-9 to Hesston’s Dahlsten and Jensen.
Rebounding with two solid rounds, Mayberry defeated Ottawa’s Kuczmarski (9-1) and Osen from Winfield (9-1) to conclude his stellar career with 9th place and a second state medal.
Kahmeyer and Kurz had a tougher time with a 4-9 loss to Parson’s Beardmore and Debald. After jumping out to a promising early lead, Kahmeyer strained his left knee moving laterally to take a volley, then played out the match with limited mobility. After a consultation with Collegiate’s on-site trainer, it was decided that an injury default for the last match would be the best option. The default dropped the pair to 12th place, but still earned them a medal and place in the books.
Page 2 of 2 - Pleased with the results, Coach Larry Kahmeyer said, “At the end of Friday, I was ecstatic. Both Thomas and Liam and Christian were 3-1 and already in the top half of all entries.”
“At Friday’s conclusion, we set some goals for Saturday and very nearly achieved them,” Kahmeyer said. “Thomas wanted to finish ahead of last year’s 10th place finish and he did. Liam and Christian wanted to finish 9th or 10th and barring Liam’s injury, I’m confident they would have. The Buhler team they beat in the first round ended up in 9th place, so I know they would’ve finished in that range. At the end of Saturday, I felt some disappointment for them, but certainly not in them. Still, the boys had a fantastic tournament.”
Twenty teams started the tournament. By Friday’s end, nine were eliminated. At Saturday’s conclusion, Collegiate lead all teams with 42 points, followed by Hayden (35), McPherson (32), Hesston (28), Abilene and Independence (25), Winfield (21), Parsons (15), Pratt (11), Pittsburgh (8), Buhler (7), Ottawa (5), DeSoto and Fort Scott (2), and Columbus (1). Atchison, Bonner Springs, Colby, Towanda Circle, and Wichita Trinity Academy earned zero points.
Continuing with some thoughts on his graduating seniors, Kahmeyer said, “I’m going to miss Thomas, Jonny [Schotte], and Shivam [Bhakta]. They’ve worked so hard and achieved so much. Thomas has had the most success in results, perhaps, but all of them have invested so much and grown where it counts.Years from now they might look back at tarnished medals, but the names of opponents and the scores of matches will fade. What will be important is what they’ve learned from playing the game – the dedication to master a skill, the ability to rise to a challenge, the discipline to control emotions. Considering the young men I’ve had the honor to coach and the success they’ve achieved, this year has been a pinnacle for me.”