Two weeks after the Garden City High School intrasquad doubles team upset, the re-match took place at Friday’s Class 6A tennis regional at Garden City High School.
This time, the No. 1 doubles team of Will Keller and Daniel Darter held serve — literally and figuratively — in a 6-2, 6-0 win over brother duo of Tyler and Nathan Morren in the doubles regional final.
That loss was one of just three losses any Garden City tennis players suffered on the day, as all six Buffaloes qualified for state — both doubles teams and both singles players — for what is believed to be the second time in program history and the first time since 2012.
“I’m really satisfied with the weather and I’m really satisfied with the play with all six of my guys,” head coach Rod Robinson said with a smile, just feet away from the regional title team plaque.
The weather looked like it might delay the tournament because of mist in the morning, but it held off just enough to allow play to continue, and the Buffs dominated through. Huy Nguyen went 3-1 and took third in singles and Aaron Schafer also went 3-1 and took fifth.
The Morrens went 3-1 and finished second to Keller and Darter, who were a perfect 4-0, losing just six games all day. It was the third-consecutive regional championship for Keller and Darter.
“Today was good,” Keller said. “Me and my partner played about as good as we possibly could play, I think.”
Keller said he and Darter have a bad habit of sometimes playing down to competition in tournaments, and that costs them later in the event when they face stiffer competition and are not as sharp as they need to be.
“But we were pretty much expecting our No. 2s (the Morrens) to come up the other side of the bracket, and they beat us in our last home meet, so we knew we couldn’t fall into that lazy rhythm if we were going to play them in the finals and expect to win,” Keller said. “We did a good job of staying serious on the court throughout the day, and that took us into finals with the right attitude.”
The duo won their first match in twin 6-0 wins, and then won 6-1, 6-0 in the quarterfinals and then beat Hutchinson Evan Henderson and Harrison Pankratz 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinal.
The Morrens got to the final with a pair of 6-0, 6-0 sweeps in their first two matches, before taking a 6-4, 6-0 win in the semifinal.
“We played a Dodge team we were familiar with, and we struggled in the beginning but we fought through,” Tyler Morren said.
That set up the final with the Garden City teammates.
“It was just a matter of who can make the shots today and who couldn’t,” Tyler Morren said. “The last time we played those guys, they struggled with their serves, and today they were spot on with that.”
Nguyen made quick work in his opener, winning 6-0, 6-0, and then he won 6-1, 6-0 to reach the semifinal. But there, facing Hutchinson’s Boaz Tolbert, whom Nguyen beat earlier this year, Nguyen stumbled, losing 6-4, 6-2.
“He played really good today, and the way he played was totally different than what I experienced,” Nguyen said. “So I’m not unhappy with that, and I’m happy for him that he won.”
Nguyen rebounded to route third-seed Caden Odette (Campus), 6-1, 6-1, in the third-place match.
“It’s always good to win, and qualify for state you get to play one more tournament, especially since this is my last year,” Nguyen said. “So I want to enjoy it.”
Aaron Schafer, who is playing tennis for the first time in high school after golfing last year, qualified by routing his first opponent, before losing to Tolbert in the quarterfinal. There, he had to rally to beat Dodge City’s Arturo Redondo, 6-1, 6-4, to qualify for state, and then he beat the other Dodge City singles player, Lakin Scheck, 6-1, 6-1 to take fifth.
“I think the guys were ready to play today, especially Will and Daniel,” Robinson said. “They knew what to expect and they came out ready for the Morrens this time.”
Now, all six must be ready for the step up in competition that is the state tournament — which is set for May 10 at Olathe’s College Boulevard Activity Center.