WICHITA, Kan.—It has been since 2005 since Conway Springs last pushed through the state tennis tournament with a team title. But after a group effort in 2012, the Cardinals have another state trophy to add to the collection.
“It feels amazing,” said Conway Springs head coach Chris Bellar. “You just never know. You work hard, put together a team. We didn’t have any, ‘standout,’ whatever, we just won a team championship because of our whole entire team.”
Despite not going home with any individual medals, the collective team effort from the Cardinals garnered enough points for Conway Springs to eke out Sterling, 34 to 30.5.
“Hopefully it speaks to the value of, ‘team,’ in tennis,” said Bellar, “even though it’s sometimes not considered a team sport. I think to win a state title with everybody contributing and not being at the top is about as good as it gets.”
The Cardinals best finish came from the doubles team of Anthony Trifiletti and Grant Bellar who finished fourth, losing to Benn Kirmer and Layne Bieberle from Central Plains 6-0, 6-1. Ross Rasmussen took sixth losing the fifth-pace singles match to Evan Wheeler from Maur Hill 9-0, and Seth Rasmussen and Jordon Ast picked up a seventh-place doubles finish. Garrett Prilliman added valuable points with a 10th-place singles finish.
Rager on the River: The 3-2-1A Singles Championship Brawl
To most freshmen, finding out that state titles don’t come easy means never even sniffing the state tournament and peering at a championship match through the chain-link fence like everybody else.
But for Kansas City Christian freshman Johnny Goodwin, state title number one was a trial by fire in a marathon slugfest for the ages. After a slow start, Goodwin battled back to beat Sterling’s Eduardo Martelli 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3).
“I just love the competition,” said Goodwin. “It’s really great. There is nothing more that I like than a grind like that and to come out victorious is only one side of the spectrum. Either way I would have been happy with the way that both, me and (Martelli) played.”
From the get go in the first set, it was apparent that Goodwin was in trouble. Martelli worked the ball around and had Goodwin chasing all over the court. In the blink of an eye, Martelli took an easy 6-1 win in the first set.
In the second, Martelli held serve, broke Goodwin, and held serve again to take what appeared to be command of the match with a 3-0 lead in the second set.
However, in a championship match, Goodwin wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, badly beaten, but still on his feet.
“I thought that I could win after the first set and breaking in the second,” said Martelli. “I was really close to it. But (Goodwin) is a fighter. He doesn’t give up any points.”
From being down 4-1 in the second set, Goodwin scrapped his way back to pick up a 6-4 win and force a third set for the state title.
Goodwin’s new life started to wear on Martelli, and an even third set came down to a tiebreaker after Goodwin fought off a match point to extend the match to the limit.
“Either way, it’s determined by a few points here and there,” said Goodwin. “You’ve just got to stay focused and get a lot of energy in there.”
In the tiebreaker, Goodwin found just enough gas to take the title over his tennis equal in Martelli, taking it 7-3 for the giant 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) win.
Trinity Seniors Go Out With Hardware
Hutchinson Trinity seniors Jason Banning and Michael Lindt have played together for three years, each year a little better than the last. In their third and final season together, the duo reached the pinnacle with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Wichita Independent’s Sam McCoy and Brandon King.
In a testament to the talent in the Hillsboro regional, the state championship was a rematch from the previous week, with Banning and Lindt coming out on top at the regional tournament as well.
“We always knew we were going to end up playing Independent,” said Lindt. “It was a good match.”
“Independent,” said Banning, “that’s who we lost to last year. They are really nice guys, we are really good friends with them. We know how they play, we know what we want to do. So we already had a game plan set. We just went out and executed it.”
After fighting back from a slow start to nip Independent in the first set with an extra game at 7-5, the Trinity seniors tried to put the state-title pressure out of their minds and just focus on the game.
“We both knew we were going to be in for the long haul,” said Lindt. “It was not going to be an easy game. We ended up coming out and winning 7-5, but it very well could have been that way in the second set too. I think losing the first set upset them a little bit more and we just buckled down and won it.”
In the second set, Trinity won a game to break Independent after a long series of deuce points to give the Celtics their fifth game of the set and a chance to serve to win.
“That is always our strategy,” said Banning. “We just need one break. And then we hold out, and focus on our serve. That has always been our strategy.”
With the serve, Trinity put the match away to pick up the elusive title in the third and final try.
“It was an intense match,” said Banning. “It feels good. We’ve definitely earned it I think.”