By RON PRESTON
WICHITA – The Class 4A State Tennis Tournament was played Friday and Saturday at the sports complex of Wichita Collegiate High School.
Cowboy seniors Matthew Barlow, Kaynan Anderson and Connor Kijowski represented Abilene in the tournament for the second year in a row and each of them improved on last year’s finish at state.
“It’s been a great season, we really feel fortunate for how things went,” Coach Garry Stredney said following the tournament.
Barlow, the undefeated and number one seed in Class 4A and defending third place medalist from a year ago showcased his talents into the finals of the tournament where he finished second to Tommy Hunter of Topeka Hayden.
Barlow drew tough completion along his path of the bracket, probably the toughest bracket of the singles tournament.
“Matthew got such a tough, tough draw for being the No. one seed in the tournament, it was like he had three straight state championship matches the last two days,” said coach Stredney.
He dispensed of Cody Spainhower of Columbus in his first match on Friday in straight sets 6-0, 6-0.
Barlow next faced the eventual fifth place finisher in the tournament, Sam Beren of host Wichita Collegiate. This was a long and tough match for both players as Barlow fought back to win 6-4, 5-7, and 11-9.
Both players were cramping and physically exhausted after this tough match.
Saturday morning came and Barlow faced the eventual third place medalist Blake Hunter of Topeka Hayden. This was a rematch of last year’s state tournament, only this year Barlow got the better of Hunter.
This was a match of two very good tennis players and both were running all over the court returning volleys and attacking the net.
The match went to three sets as Barlow fought back to win 6-3, 0-6, 6-3.
A tired and exhausted Barlow met a relative fresh freshman Tommy Hunter in the championship. Barlow had defeated Hunter in the Abilene Invitational earlier in the season so he was familiar with him as well.
Hunter took advantage of some Barlow serving miscues and near misses on returns to claim the Championship in two sets 6-2, 6-2.
“The kid played real well and Matthew seemed a little tired and didn’t serve very well and that was the big difference in the game,” Stredney said.
“In tennis you have to serve well or you don’t have a chance against quality opponents,” he added.
“It’s been a great year for Matthew, he is 33-1 and that is a heck of a senior season,” coach Stredney said about his star singles player.
The large crowd in attendance, mostly Barlow supporters from Abilene, saw two fine tennis players compete for the championship.
Anderson and Kijowski, who placed 10th, last year, improved to seventh place this in doubles.
The Cowboys No.1 doubles team opened with two wins before losing to the eventual champions on Friday.
The Cowboy duo defeated Tanner Boyle and Cory Wasko of Winfield 6-4, 6-1 in the first round. Next they took care of Josh Russell and Ben Heath of Topeka Hayden 6-0, 6-2 before falling to the eventual tournament champions Tyler Posch and GavinWebster of Independence 6-0, 6-1.
Saturday morning they defeated Tyler Beardmore and Kevin Debald of Parsons 9-3 in the third round of the consolation bracket.
Next up, they fell to the eventual sixth place finishers Dean Dahlsten and Peter Jensen of Hesston.
Anderson and Kijowski fought back and defeated Sonny Frank and Daniel Hullings of Wichita Collegiate 9-7 to win the seventh place medals.
“The doubles had a very good state tournament. They had a very good day today. They had two wins on Friday and lost to Independence, the eventual winner, and they had two nice matches,” he said.
“They won four matches at state and that’s a heck of a season for them and they also have 30 wins for the season as well. Really a tremendous year for the doubles team,” Stredney added.
Wichita Collegiate won the team trophy with Topeka Hayden getting second place and McPherson third. Abilene was fifth in team total combination with just three entries in the tournament.
“Some of the teams will beat us point wise because of the fact they have more entries in the tournament,” said Stredney.
“We are pretty happy with how things turned out for us this weekend,” he concluded.