CENTRAL OPENS SEASON AT HESSTON
At Hesston, Salina Central’s two doubles teams placed second and the Mustangs finished second in the team standings at the Hesston Invitational.
The No. 1 team of James Michel and Mason Courbot went 2-1, losing 8-5 in the championship match to a team from Hesston. The No. 2 team of Liam Jones and Caron Michaelis also were 2-1 and lost to Hesston 8-1 in the finals. Cole Leiker and Nolan Foth each placed third in singles competition for the Mustangs, each going 2-1 for the day.
Leiker defeated T.J. Enegren of Goddard 8-1 in the No. 1 third place match while Foth topped Tre Tatum of Goddard 8-2 (2) in the No. 2 match.
Central finished with 36 team points, two behind team champion Hesston.
MUSTANGS ON ROAD TO ANDOVER CENTRAL
At Andover, the Salina Central boys tennis team finished second among eight schools competing at the Andover Central Invitational on Thursday.
The Mustangs finished with 31 team points, trailing only Winfield with 34. Andover Central was third with 29.
Salina Central athletes reached the title match in three divisions, and all four entries finished the day with a record of 2-1. The Mustangs had second-place finishes from JD McHenry in No. 1 singles and Zach Hilbig and Will Hayes in No. 1 doubles. Akass Bhakta finished third in No. 2 singles, with Travis Bigler and Skylar Hendrick taking second in No. 2 doubles.
MUSTANGS ON ROAD TO ANDOVER CENTRAL
It would have been impossible for Travis Bigler and Will Hayes to finish any better in their first tournament as doubles partners. It wasn’t a bad showing for the rest of the Salina Central boys tennis team as well Saturday during the 11th annual Mustang Doubles Classic at the Central High courts.
Bigler and Hayes combined to go 5-0 and win No. 3 doubles, while each of Central’s other three pairings finished 4-1 and and placed second in their respective divisions.
“I was pretty impressed with how we played for the first time we’ve played together as partners,” Bigler said. “For the most part we handled all the adversity pretty well.”
“I think Travis and I started off a little slow,” Hayes said. “But once we got the hang of things, we did well. “I watched this tournament and my teammates play here last year and now I’m playing here with Travis. It feels great to go 5-0 and I’m really excited for the rest of the season.”
The doubles tournament format allowed each school to bring eight team members. Central coach Mike Goll loaded his lineup with all seven seniors on his roster and Hayes, a sophomore.
Central and Manhattan each entered the final round with unbeaten records (16-0). The Indians won three of four head-to-head matches with Central to edge the Mustangs for the team title — Manhattan with 19 points, Central with 17.
If the teams had tied, Central held the tiebreaker of percentage of games won. “It’s one of the most fun tournaments for all of them and it’s a chance to play all seven seniors in one last tournament together,” Goll said. “Even though we came up one match short, it doesn’t take away from the fact that these guys have a great season ahead of them.”
Bigler-Hayes picked up Central’s lone victory over Manhattan, defeating Ben Turnley and Matt Turnley, 8-5. They also held on in a close match with Maize South’s Cameron Eckerman and Spencer Rummery, 8-6. “I think we’re both really strong at the net and when we get to the net we can be successful,” Hayes said. “I thought we built off big plays today and had good chemistry too,” Bigler said. “When we got down in games, we would get one winner and build off that. “I don’t know how coach is going to line us up, but I’d be happy to play doubles with Will all year.”
Only a week into the season, Goll admits there are still some decisions to be made about who will play varsity singles and doubles for Central in the bigger meets later in the year.
“When you watch these kids in practice you know they are talented,” Goll said. “But to put them in a tournament situation and have them step up and do that well against quality competition is great to see. “I can’t say enough about how all the kids played today, but to finish 5-0 against that competition says a lot.”
Seniors JD McHenry and Zach Hilbig went 4-1 to finish second in No. 1 doubles, as did the senior pairings of James Michel and Mason Courbot in No. 2 doubles, and Cole Leiker and Liam Jones in No. 4 doubles. “How can you complain about a first and three seconds,” Goll said. “We came up a little short against a Class 6A power, but the future is still bright.”
McHENRY / COURBOT TAKE DOUBLES TITLE AT NEWTON
At Newton, the Salina Central boys tennis team finished second among eight schools competing at the Newton Invitational on Thursday.
The Mustangs, led by the doubles team of JD McHenry and Mason Courbot, finished with 50 team points, trailing only Newton with 54. McHenry and Courbot went 4-0, edging Winfield’s Eli Crowe and Gavin Crowe in the semifinals 8-6. The Mustang seniors then finished the day with an 8-3 victory over Shawn Bontrager and Adam Ford of Newton in the finals.
Central’s Zach Hilbig finished fourth in the singles division and Skylar Hendrick was eighth. The Mustangs also had a sixth-place finish in doubles from Hunter Hendrick and Carson Michaelis.
LEIKER/JONES TAKE 4TH AT GODDARD
At Goddard, the senior doubles duo of Cole Leiker and Liam Jones took 4th at the John Markham Classic. After a first round win over Woods/Lawrie of Independence, they upset the #2 seeded team from Blue Valley West, Moody/Mills. They followed that win up with an upset of the #7 seed team from Independence, Hilger/Schabel.
The doubles team of sophomores Hunter Hendrick and Carson Michaelis finished 16th in the 32 draw tournament.
The team was shorthanded with only one singles entry. Junior Akass Bhakta finished the day with a record of 3-2 and was in 21st place.
Salina Central is back in action on Tuesday as they host the Mustang Classic.
SALINA CENTRAL PREVAILS IN ITS CLASSIC
At Salina Central, James Michel placed second in singles, and J.D. McHenry and Mason Courbet placed second in doubles, propelling Central to the team championship of the Mustang Classic.
Central finished with 61 team points, just ahead of Newton which had 57. Salina South placed third with 44 points.
Michel was 2-1 on the day, losing to Felipe Lene of Newton 8-0 in the championship. Michel’s teammate Zach Hilbig placed fourth, finishing with a 1-2 record.
McHenry and Courbot won their first two matches before losing to a team from Newton 8-6 in the finals. Central’s William Hayes and Travis Bigler placed sixth with a 1-2 record.
South was led by the doubles team of Matt Berneking and Logan Harner, who were 2-1 and finished third. J.D. Warren placed fifth in singles, going 2-1, while Carson Harris was 2-1 and placed seventh. The doubles team of Gavin Aills and Joey Wilson were 1-2 and placed 11th.
FOTH SECOND FOR SALINA CENTRAL
At Derby, Nolan Foth placed second in No. 2 singles and the Mustangs took second as a team at the Derby Invitational. Foth won his three pool play matches before losing to Ethan Pheifer of Maize 8-4 in the finals.
Central’s No. 1 doubles team of Will Hayes and Travis Bigler finished third with a 3-1 record. They defeated Ryan Palmer and Connor Edwards of Derby 8-2 in the third-place match.
James Michel placed fourth in No. 1 singles with a 2-2 record, and the No. 2 doubles team of Marion Miller and Keaton Beach took fifth, also with a 2-2 record.
Maize was the team champion with 27 points while Central had 18. Wichita Collegiate was third with 17.
MUSTANG PLACE FIFTH AT McPHERSON
At McPherson, Tanner Thomas placed seventh in singles and the Mustangs took fifth as a team at the McPherson Invitational. Thomas won his final match against Nick Vogel of Hutchinson 8-0.
Central’s doubles team of Cole Leiker and Liam Jones also finished seventh with a 2-2 record. They defeated Kyle Woods and Jalynn Lawrie of Independence in the seventh place match.
Akass Bhakta and Skylar Hendick placed eleventh in the doubles draw with a 2-2 record, and Nolan Foth took thirteenth in the singles draw, also with a 2-2 record.
McPherson was the team champion with 55 points while Central had 26 points and settling for 5th.
The Mustangs are back in action Tuesday as they travel to Topeka for the Topeka West Invitational.
SALINA CENTRAL WINS TOPEKA WEST INVITATIONAL
At Topeka, Salina South's doubles team of seniors Matt Berneking and Logan Harner downed Salina Central's Mason Courbot and James Michel to win the doubles division Tuesday.
Berneking and Harner finished the tournament 6-0, downing their crosstown rivals 8-2 in the championship match.
Central's other doubles team of JD McHenry and Zach Hilbig took fourth with a 4-2 mark, while Will Hayes finished third in the singles division at 5-1.
The Mustangs won the 10-team tournament with 75 points. The Cougars were second with 70 while Topeka Hayden finished third.
The Mustangs will host the Salina Central Invitational on Saturday, after competeing Thursday in the Salina South Invitational.
MUSTANGS TAKE SEVENTH AT SALINA SOUTH
Salina Central went with the second unit at the Salina South Invitational. The Mustangs placed 7th behind the first place team from Manhattan, Abilene placed 2nd, and Valley Center 3rd.
The Mustangs individually placed 12th, 13th, 13th and 14th.
Junior Kadin Louthan was the highest placing player in Singles with a 12th place finish. Sophomore Tanner Thomas placed 13th.
Juniors Akass Bhakta and Skylar Hendrick placed 13th by defeating Seniors Cole Leiker and Liam Jones in the final match of the day.
The Mustangs will host the Salina Central Invitational on Saturday.
SALINA CENTRAL DOMINATES INVITATIONAL
If JD McHenry and Zach Hilbig didn’t exactly come into the Salina Central Invitational with a chip on their shoulders, they certainly felt they had something to prove.
Less than a week after placing fourth as the No. 1 doubles seed at Topeka West, they reversed roles against essentially the same cast of characters Saturday as they breezed through the doubles draw and led host Central to the team championship at the Central courts.
“We had a good attitude and we really stepped up and kept our heads in the game,” Hilbig said after he and McHenry steamrolled Topeka West’s Zach Shima and Kyle Rice, 8-1, in the finals. “Our downfall most of the time if we lose is the head games.
“We’re both capable of doing some great things and if both of us are clicking, it really works. We executed about every shot today.”
McHenry and Hilbig were seeded fourth after losing to teammates Mason Courbot and James Michel in the semifinals, then Shima and Rice in the third-place match in Topeka on Tuesday. But they knocked off Salina South’s Matt Berneking, the Topeka West champions, 8-5 in the semis and were nearly flawless in the final.
“The Topeka meet was really disappointing because we came in seeded at No. 1, and then getting beat not once but twice, was tough,” Hilbig said. “We knew in practice that we had to change some stuff up.”
While McHenry and Hilbig beat Berneking and Harner in one semifinal, Shima and Rice topped Courbot and Michel, 8-3, in the other. Berneking and Harner rallied force a tiebreaker and edged Courbot and Michel, 8-7 (7-4) for third place.
Central also was the runaway winner for the team title with 115 points, followed by Buhler with 95. Salina South and Goddard tied for third with 83.
In singles, Sacred Heart’s Stratton Brown was never tested until the final, when he won the last five games to dispatch Wichita Independent’s Wonjoon Cho, 8-3.
McHenry and Hilbig asserted themselves quickly in the doubles championship, breaking Rice, then saving a break point on McHenry’s serve. They followed that with a break of Shima and rallied from love-40 with Hilbig serving on the way to a 6-0 lead.
“This is probably our best meet this year,” said McHenry, who also teamed with Hilbig last year to finish sixth at Class 5A state. “We played really solid and didn’t miss many shots.
“Now we’ll just try to keep getting better before regionals and state.”
In the third-place match, Berneking and Harner trailed Courbot and Michel 5-1, but battled back to 6-6. After dropping Berneking’s serve, they broke back against Michel to force the tiebreaker, then never trailed the rest of the way.
“I’m proud of both Logan and me after that effort,” Berneking said. “We’ve had better days, but I can’t complain.
“JD and Zach were really hot (in the semifinals) and we showed some guts in the last match. It would have been a bad deal to wait a week (for the league meet) thinking about back-to-back losses.”
While the top four doubles teams continued to beat up on each other, Sacred Heart’s Brown had no worries in singles. He dropped just one game total in three matches on the way to the finals, where he faced a familiar opponent in Cho.
After opening a 3-1 lead, then letting Cho back in it at 3-all, Brown raised his game and took him down in short order.
“I felt I played pretty well,” said Brown, who also beat fourth-seeded Logan Benham of Pittsburg, 8-1, in the semifinals. “The wind picked up at the end, but Wonjoon’s a good player and I won 8-3 in the final, so I’m pretty happy.
“It was a good win and it should help my seeding for state.”
Brown beat Cho, 6-4, 6-2, in the Class 3-2-1A state semifinals last year before falling in the finals.
“It was definitely tough going into the wind and we were both serving pretty well,” Brown said. “It got pretty close there in the middle, but I started moving my feet better.
“I thought I adjusted pretty well.”
No. 3 seed Jackson Vander Ark of Kansas City Christian beat Benham in the third-place match, 8-2. For Salina Central, Travis Bigler took sixth and Will Hayes seventh to supplement the Mustangs’ doubles points.
“I was most excited about our singles, because if you take just the singles points we were second to only Kansas City Christian,” Central coach Mike Goll said. “We knew our doubles were good, so they really stepped up.
“I thought Travis and Will were just outstanding.”
Salina South’s top singles finisher was Carson Harris in 11th place.
MUSTANGS CAPTURE TWO TEAM TITLES IN ONE DAY
The Salina Central Tennis team achieved a rare day of two team titles in one day. At Emporia, Travis Bigler took second in Singles, while Sophomore teammate Will Hayes took third. In Doubles, the Senior duo of J. D. McHenry and Zach Hilbig finished second, while senior teammates Mason Courbot and James Michel took third.
The team outdistanced 6A power Manhattan 58 to 55. Mill Valley finished third with 47.
On the same day, another squad of players stayed in Salina to host the Salina Central Quad. They also finished first with 9 points, followed by Maize South with 8 points and Junction City with 6 points.
The team was lead by Junior Kadin Louthan with a first place finish at #2 Singles. Sophomore teammate Nolan Foth finished second at #1 Singles. In Doubles, Seniors Cole Leiker and Liam Jones closed out their high school careers with a second place finish at #1 Doubles. Junior teammates Akass Bhakta and Skylar Hendrick also finished in second at #2 Doubles.
The Mustangs are back in action on Monday as they travel to Hutchinson for the AVCTL Championships.
SALINA CENTRAL ARE AVCTL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS AGAIN.....
At Hutchison, Salina Central athletes won the singles and doubles titles in leading the Mustangs to the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League tournament championship.
Will Hayes was the singles champion, winning all four of his matches.
Teammate Travis Bigler placed third, going 31 on the day.
JD McHenry and Zach Hilbig teamed to capture the doubles crown, winning all three of their matches after a firstround bye.
Mason Courbot and James Michel finished third, winning three of four matches.
Central finished with 48 points while Newton placed second with 36. Maize had 35 and Salina South 30.
Matt Berneking and Carson Harris placed third in double for South, going 31.
Gavin Aills and Joey Wilson also were 31and placed seventh.
Harris was 31 in singles competition and placed seventh. J.D. Warren was 21 and placed ninth.
The Mustangs are back in action on Saturday as they compete in the 5A Regional at Valley Center.
5A REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GOES TO MUSTANGS
Salina Central qualified three of four entries for state Saturday on the way to a Class 5A regional team championship at Valley Center High School.
The Mustangs were led by seniors JD McHenry and Zach Hilbig, who placed second in doubles, while sophomore Will Hayes took third in singles. Seniors Mason Courbot and James Michel took fifth in doubles.
Salina South split up its top doubles team and qualified both members in singles, with Matt Berneking placing second and Logan Harner fourth.
Central finished with 15 team points, followed by Newton and South with 11 each. Newton won the tiebreaker with the Cougars to take second.
For Central, McHenry and Hilbig survived a threeset semifinal test against Maize’s Colton Slusser and Kaden Jobe, 76 (86), 57, 63, before falling in another marathon to Newton’s Felipe Lene and Jordan Singh, 64, 46, 63, in the final.
Courbot and Michel, who lost to Slusser and Jobe in the quarterfinals, came back to beat Newton’s Shawn Bontrager and Adam Ford, 60, 75, in the fifthplace match.
Hayes fell 63, 64 to eventual champion Kerry Dunn of Wichita Heights in the singles semifinal, but rebounded to top Harner for third, 62, 60.
Berneking, a state singles qualifier as a freshman before finishing third in doubles with Pierce Carey each of the last two years, took down teammate Harner in the semifinals, 60, 61. He then won the first set in the championship before falling to Dunn, 36, 61, 64.
The 5A state tournament gets under way Friday and wraps up Saturday at Maize South High School
MUSTANGS EYE THIRD TITLE IN FOUR YEARS
Maize — Much as they would have enjoyed winning a regional doubles title last week, JD McHenry and Zach Hilbig looked at their runnerup finish philosophically. “The team that beat us last week was a good mindsetter that we aren’t the best team,” Hilbig said of the threeset loss to Newton’s Felipe Lene and Jordan Singh in the regional final at Newton. “It isn’t going to be easy and we have to have that mindset. “That should get us up for state.”
Hilbig and McHenry not only hope to improve on last year’s fifthplace doubles finish when the Class 5A state tennis tournament gets under way today at Maize South High School. They also are determined to help Salina Central claim its third team championship in four years. “I think we’re in a good position,” McHenry said of the No. 1ranked Mustangs, who finished second to Blue Valley West last but won the previous two titles. “But if we don’t come out and perform, we could lose as a team.”
Central has three entries in the twoday tournament, which resumes Saturday morning with the championship semifinals and consolation matches and concludes with the championship and other place matches. Both allsenior doubles teams return intact with Mason Courbot and James Michael looking to improve on their ninthplace finish.
The newcomer to the lineup is sophomore Will Hayes, who placed third in singles at the Newton regional.
“We told them that we have a target on our back because we’ve been ranked No. 1 all year and we just have to go out and prove it,” Central coach Mike Goll said. The rugged doubles draw in the Newton regional should prepare both Central teams for what they’ll face at state.
McHenry and Hilbig were seeded first in that regional, while Courbot and Michel needed a victory over secondseeded Shawn Bontrager and Adam Ford of Newton just to place fifth. “I think it’s a wideopen year,” McHenry said. “Our regional was really stacked and I think we have at least an indirect win over every team there. “But we’ll definitely need to work hard.”
Hilbig qualified for state as a singles player two years ago while McHenry teamed with Thomas Hampton for 11th in doubles. “This is JD’s and my third time going to state, so we’ve kind of experienced the whole situation,” Hilbig said. “We can come together and assure each other that we know what we’re doing and keep each other in line and on the right track.”
Goll said he has confidence in all three entries. “Mason and James stubbed their toes a little at regionals, but they have the ability to beat anybody,” Goll said. “And I have nothing but praise for Will Hayes, who has improved by leaps and bounds and will be a big part of our run.”
Singles for South Salina South seniors Matt Berneking and Logan Harner demonstrated during the regular season that they could hold their against the best doubles teams in the region, but they went a different direction at regionals. With other schools loading up in doubles, they returned to their singles roots and qualified second and fourth at Newton. “Logan and me and (coach Ryan) Stuart all talked about it and thought this was maybe the best move for our team and for us individually,” said Berneking, a state singles qualifier as a freshman before teaming with 2015 graduate Pierce Carey for third in doubles each of the past two years. “We can’t complain with the results we had at regionals.”
Berneking, who went into the regional with just eight singles matches under his belt this season, breezed through to the finals, where he fell in three sets to Wichita Heights’ Kerry Dunn.
Harner, a state singles qualifier last year, fell to Berneking in the semifinals and Hayes in the thirdplace match. “My singles game has really evolved after two years of playing doubles,” said Berneking, who has become more attackminded. “I’ll take maybe one ball and come in to the net, which is something I never would have imagined doing as a freshman.”
Berneking said he also expects Harner to feel thrive in singles. “He’s enjoying going back to what he’s comfortable with,” Berneking said. “We’re both confident that we can win a few matches at state.”
With 2015 champion Blue Valley West back in 6A, there are no defending champions in this year’s field. But Arkansas City junior Berett Hollis won the singles as a freshman before switching to doubles last year, and he emerged from a loaded Goddard Eisenhower regional as the champion by beating Wichita Carroll’s Rodney Steven. Steven is the top returning player from last year’s tournament after placing fourth.
McHENRY/HILBIG REACH STATE DOUBLES SEMIS
Maize — Salina Central may not bring home a team championship, but there’s still plenty of hardware left on the table for the Mustangs. Seniors JD McHenry and Zach Hilbig rolled to a pair of straightset doubles victories Friday to reach the semifinals of the Class 5A state tennis tournament at Maize South High School.
Sophomore Will Hayes also is in the hunt for a medal on the back side of the singles bracket. Salina South singles players Matt Berneking and Logan Harner remain in contention for medals today as well.
It was a rough start as a team for Central, which was seeking its third title in four years. Hayes lost the opening round before winning a pair of consolation matches, while seniors Mason Courbot and James Michel fell in the second round and were later eliminated one match short of placing.
“Anything that could go wrong, did,” Central coach Mike Goll said of the team race. “We just didn’t play well. You’re going to have tough days and that’s what happened.”
But McHenry and Hilbig had little trouble in their two matches after receiving a firstround bye. They dispatched Wichita Kapaun’s Jason Searl and Bobby Cuillo, 60, 64, to reach the quarterfinals, where they knocked off Lansing regional champions Alec Bergeron and Andrew Bock of Shawnee Mill Valley, 62, 62.
Today’s semifinals have a familiar look as all four remaining teams advanced from the Valley Center regional. McHenry and Hilbig face Maize’s Colton Slusser and Kaden Jobe, who they beat in three sets last week, while the other match pits regional champs Felipe Lene and Jordan Singh against Newton teammates Shawn Bontrager and Adam Ford.
“They played well, and now they have a shot at a state doubles title,” Goll said of McHenry and Hilbig, who finished fifth last year. “And Will is shooting for a state medal, which is a good accomplishment for a sophomore.”
Hayes, after dropping his firstround match in a super tiebreaker, 63, 36, 107, to Wichita Kapaun’s Andrew Klumiuk, rebounded to win twice on the back side. He will face regional champ Kerry Dunn of Wichita Heights today with a chance to finish anywhere from fifth to 12th.
South’s Berneking received a firstround bye and beat Pittsburg’s Devin McAfee, 61, 64, before falling to overall No. 1 seed Berett Hollis of Arkansas City, the 2014 champion, 62, 63, in the quarterfinals. That sets up an allCougar matchup today against Harner, who followed a first round loss with two consolation victories. Like Hays, Berneking and Harner will place somewhere between fifth and 12th.
Much as the Valley Center regional dominated in doubles, the Goddard Eisenhower rose to the top in the singles bracket with three of the four semifinalists. Hollis will play Eisenhower’s Luke Howard in one match, while Wichita Carroll’s Rodney Steven and Emporia regional champ Logan Benham of Pittsburg meet in the other.
McHENRY/HILBIG GO OUT ON TOP FOR MUSTANGS
Maize — Big picture, JD McHenry and Zach Hilbig will be go down as the latest state champions in Salina Central’s storied tennis history. But it was a series of memorable snapshots that provided the defining moments for the two Mustang seniors Saturday on the road to the Class 5A doubles title at Maize South High School.
First there was McHenry’s floater that caught the line in the back right corner for a decisive break point in the third set of their semifinal. Then there was the improbable firstset rally and subsequent break against Newton’s bigserving Felipe Lene in the final. Throw in a dozen or so more big points and it all added up to a dream fulfilled.
“I’m just happy now we finally did it,” a smiling Hilbig said after the hardfought 75, 64 championship victory over Newton’s Lene and Jordan Singh. “We came through. “We’re done and we went out with a bang.”
The bang came off both of their rackets, from Hilbig’s steady ground strokes to McHenry’s bigger serve and net game. But the biggest factor, they said, was the ability to cash in when the opportunities arose. “We really try to use the momentum — just keep playing and use the momentum — stay excited and get a boost from the adrenaline,” McHenry said. “It really helps. “I think (the key) was the mental game and picking each other up, staying consistent and knowing what we needed to do.”
After rallying from a break down in both the first and third sets for a 63, 26, 63 semifinal victory over Maize’s Colton Slusser and Kaden Jobe, McHenry and Hilbig faced a rematch of last week’s Valley Center regional final against Lene and Singh. They also faced three set points when a Lene ace, serving at 54, made it 400. But a double fault and backtoback solid returns got it back to deuce. After they squandered two break points, they finally got even on a McHenry return winner, saved a break point of their own on Hilbig’s serve and took the set on a pair of Singh double faults.
“When he was serving, up 54, 40love, and we came back, after that we finally realized we can break him,” McHenry said. “We finally got our heads back in it and started to play.”
The biggest scare of the second set came after Singh held at 25 and McHenry was broken while serving for the match. But again on Lene’s serve, they got to 3040 on a double fault and immediately wrapped it up when Singh’s volley off a low McHenry return clipped the top of the net.
The victory not only avenged last week’s threeset regional loss to Lene and Singh, but coupled with an Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League tournament victory two weeks before, gave them a 21 edge headtohead edge. It was the second straight rematch for McHenry and Hilbig, who also needed three sets last week to beat Maize’s Slusser and Jobe in the regional semis.
In fact all four semifinalists came from the Valley Center regional. “I think when you know what you’re getting,” McHenry said of facing familiar foes. “But even if we lost, they’re all great guys.”
The pivotal points of the semifinal came with Jobe serving at 34 and deuce in the third set, when McHenry got a half lob to drop deep in the corner. McHenry’s return off the net cord and a Hilbig overhead then produced the decisive break and McHenry served out the match at love.
Central, which also got a ninthplace singles finish from sophomore Will Hayes, finished just one spot out of the team trophy hunt in fourth place. Goddard Eisenhower won the championship with 32 points, followed by Wichita Carroll with 31 and Newton with 28.
Carroll sophomore Rodney Steven beat Arkansas City junior Berett Hollis, the 2014 champion, 3 6, 64, 64, for the singles champioinship. Salina South, which tied for seventh as a team with 14 points, got a sixthplace finish from Matt Berneking and 12th place from Logan Harner.
Berneking advanced to the consolation bracket final, where he lost 93 to Wichita Heights’ Kerry Dunn, who also beat him last week in the regional final. It was his third straight year placing at state after teaming with 2015 graduate Pierce Carey for third in doubles each of the past two years. “Considering I only lost to Hollis, who was the runnerup (in Friday’s quarterfinal) and Dunn, who is a really good player, I had a pretty decent weekend taking sixth,” Berneking said. “I felt I didn’t play necessarily my best tennis of the weekend (against Dunn), but I can’t complain too much about sixth at the 5A state level. “I had a good career and definitely a good season to look back on, so it’s been fun.”
Harner started his Saturday with a loss to Berneking and dropped two more matches, but still closed out his career with a state medal.
It was just the start for Central’s Hayes, who capped his first state tournament appearance with a 95 ninthplace victory over Wichita Kapaun’s Andrew Klumiuk, avenging a threeset firstround loss. “I was nervous and had some jitters,” Hayes said of Friday’s loss to Klumiuk. “But I got it all out in that first match. “I won the next two and made it to the second day, which is great as a sophomore. Now I have next year to look forward to.”
But the day belonged to McHenry and Hilbig, who were the top returning team after finishing sixth in doubles a year ago. I think it’s finally starting to sink in,” McHenry said as they soaked it all in. “Holy cow.”