GCHS boys tennis ties for sixth at Salina

GCHS Athletics

The 2021 high school tennis schedule was always going to have its share of difficult tournaments in which the Garden City Buffaloes’ boys team would compete.

Tuesday was one of those days as the Buffs competed in the eight-team Salina Central Mustang Invitational, the 12th year for one of the state’s elite meets.

The Buffs tied for sixth with Emporia with 22 points while host Salina Central, the No. 1-ranked Class 5A team in Kansas, easily won their own invite with 76 points. Newton, ranked 7th in 5A, was second with 46 points. Andover was third with 37 and Hesston, the No. 3-ranked Class 3-2-1A school, was fourth with 31 points. Smoky Valley, the No. 7 team in 3-2-1A was fifth with 30 points. Salina South finished with 13.

“It was an incredibly challenging day for all of our players,” head coach Logan Bevis said. “We knew this would be one of the best tournaments we would play all season. Certainly there were some of the top teams and top singles and doubles teams in Kansas there.”

The top finish for the Buffs came from No. 1 singles player Logan Morren, who posted a 2-2 record and placed sixth among the 16 competitors as the singles and doubles divisions were combined with all Nos. 1 and 2’s playing against each other.

Colin Kleysteuber also posted a 2-2 record, but because of where his wins came in the bracket, he finished in 11th place. The same happened with Charles Stillian and Abraham Hernandez, the Buffs’ No. 1 doubles team, as they placed 11th with a 2-2 mark. The No. 2 doubles team of John Tran and Josh Negron were 15th, winning their final match of the day after three setbacks.

“I thought Logan played his best tennis of the year so far,” Bevis said of his No. 1 singles player. “He was able to take advantage of the conditions and used his consistency to his advantage. As the day went on he continued to improve his use of in-point tactics and making appropriate adjustments.”

Bevis said Morren’s two losses came against the third and fifth-place finishers in singles. Morren’s two victories came against Trevor Gamble of Hesston, 8-2, and Sam Claassen of Newton, 8-2. His losses were to Jake Lucas of Smoky Valley and Paul Jittawait of Andover.

Kleysteuber opened against the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Connor Phelps of Salina Central, and was blanked 8-0. But he came back to defeated Josh Leimbach of Hesston, 8-3. He then lost a heartbreaking 8-7 (2) tiebreak to Miles Hammond of Salina Central. He finished his day with a dominant 8-1 win over George Schulte of Andover.

“Colin’s losses were to the eventual champion from Central and to the Salina South player (Hammond) who went 3-1,” Bevis said. “Despite the score line of his first match, I think he took a lot of positives from his performance against one of (if not the) best players in 5A. The fact that he was consistently competitive points and games with such a high level player should provide him with a lot of confidence moving forward.”

Bevis said the doubles field was as competitive as they had seen so far this season.

Stillian and Hernandez lost to teams from Andover and Hesston while winning matches against LeRoy Bean and Kellen Johnsen of Smoky Valley by an 8-4 margin and then defeated Per Nelson and Keaton Leiker, also of Smoky Valley, 8-5.

Tran and Negron had the toughest road as they lost their first three matches, one to a pair from Hesston, another from Smoky Valley and the third from Salina South. They defeated LeRoy Bean and Kellen Johnsen of Smoky Valley, 8-2, in the 15th place match.

“While the guys would like to have more success on the scoreboard, I think they did an admirable job of trying to take little steps in the right direction by using different doubles strategies we’ve practiced,” Bevis said. “At this point a lot of the challenges are simple issues of technique and practice, something this group just doesn’t have a lot of yet. All four players showed a lot of resilience to pick up wins later in the day after the way things started out, and I’m happy with their growth so far.”

The Buffs have little time to recover as their now busy schedule had them traveling to Hutchinson on Thursday, April 1, for the Salthawk Invitational. It has a scheduled 10 a.m. start. The Buffs will host their own invitational on April 24.