Entering the year Park Hill South coach Ian Cunliff did not expect to break the school’s district championship drought which has lasted since the Panthers won the Class 2 District 15 title in 2011.
That changed on Wednesday, May 9 as Park Hill South claimed the team title with a 5-3 win against Platte County at Platte County High School.
“It’s a pretty remarkable accomplishment for the team,” Cunliff said. “We did not have that marked as a realistic goal at the start of the season. It’s a testament to how much they have worked since the start of the season.”
Park Hill South took the early lead after claiming two of the three doubles matchups. The Panthers claimed the No. 1 doubles match with an 8-1 win by Cooper Hayes and Andrew Robaska over Spencer Klopfer and Noah Singer. At No. 2 doubles Brandon Crabtree and Gavin Lee held on for an 8-6 win against Nathen Mair and Parker Curtis after the Pirates duo came back from a 7-2 deficit and had a break point to tie the match before the Park Hill South pair rebounded to take the game and the match.
The Pirates got on the board at No. 3 doubles with an 8-5 win by Trenton Percival and Stockton Curtis.
“We played so hard,” Platte County coach Anna Nutt said. “Every court you looked out on the guys were chasing down balls and really hustling. You couldn’t ask for any more out of them. Number 3 doubles was a big win so we weren’t down 0-3 headed into singles. I think we’re a really strong singles team, I know the score says 3-5 but it probably would have been 4-5. It was a good close match, they just got us.”
The deficit for the Pirates after doubles meant that the team needed to take four of the six singles matches to claim it’s first-ever district team title.
However after each of the singles matches finished a set the teams each won three and no matches changed their fortunes in the second set and Park Hill South claimed the title when Crabtree finished off his 6-2, 6-1 win against Mair at No. 3 singles.
“I was just taking one point at a time,” Crabtree said. “I was just trying to get each shot in and have the confidence to take shots and make them. It’s easier to play with confidence because you are ready to control the game, put the pedal to the metal and stay aggressive.”
The win for the Panthers was the third in three days, all coming in tight wins. The three district wins also brought the Panthers back to the .500 mark for the season.
“For the most part the team is pretty inexperienced in total match play,” Cunliff said. “Any time we could be on the court it helped us to gain experience. We will just work our butts off this week to see how much better we can get.”
Park Hill South faces Rockhurst on Saturday, May 19 in the sectional round of the Class 2 Team Tournament. The Panthers host the quarterfinal quadrant which will feature Liberty and Blue Springs South in the other sectional with the winners advancing to the afternoon quarterfinal. The winner will advance to the semifinals to be held in Springfield on Thursday, May 24 before the singles and doubles draws on Friday and Saturday.
For Platte County, the Pirates season ended at 13-2 with the school’s first-ever Suburban Conference Blue Division championship. The team also brought home their first district plaque, however the smaller second-place version.
“This is the farthest a men’s team has gone,” Nutt said. “It’s great to have a state-shaped plaque. When you have one of those, you’ve done something. We have a conference championship. These seniors have been a part of a lot of wins.”
Park Hill South 5, St. Joseph Central 1
The Panthers reached the district finals with a victory against their Suburban Conference Red Division foe on Tuesday, May 8, in St. Joseph, Mo.
The upset started thanks third-seeded Panthers sweeping the doubles.
Cooper Hayes and Andrew Robaska won 8-4 against Cole Hopkins and Matt Davis at No. 1 doubles. Brandon Crabtree and Gavin Lee won 8-4 against Andy Le and Joseph Bui and Luke Saylor and freshman Alex Ware, a newcomer to varsity, won 8-5 against Cade Alden and Clayton Mikesch.
Saylor posted 6-1 and 6-1 wins against Alden at No. 5 singles and Crabtree won 6-0 and 6-2 against Bui to end the match early.
The lone win for the Indians came at No. 4, where Davis won 6-2 and 6-4 against Lee.
Platte County 5, North Kansas City 4
The Pirates squeaked into the District title match with a win on Tuesday, May 8 at the Platte county tennis Courts. Spencer Klopfer, Noah Singer and Trenton Porter won singles matches for the Pirates who won two of the three doubles matches.
On the doubles side Klopfer and Singer and Nathen Mair and Porter Curtiswon at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles, respectively.