KEARNEY, Mo. — For the second time in program history — and the second straight year — Park Hill advanced two doubles teams to the Class 2 Missouri State Tennis Championships.
Jake McFee and Grant Martin — both seniors — and senior Chandler To and sophomore Cooper Hayes both won Class 2 Sectional 8 matches Monday, May 15 at Kearney High School. McFee and To are second-time qualifiers, although they haven’t been paired together either time, while Martin and Hayes advanced to state for the first time.
“We’ve come so far as a team this season, and everyone’s been getting better throughout and it’s just an honor, to be honest,” Martin said. “I played JV freshman and sophomore year, and I obviously never thought I would be playing No. 1 doubles and going to state for the first time. It feels truly amazing.”
Coming off a District 16 championship, Martin and McFee faced off against Liberty North’s Macgyver Newton and Brinkley Wilson in the sectional matchup. Park Hill’s top doubles team took the opening set 6-4 and then dominated the second 6-2 for a straight sets victory.
“The first set was really close,” McFee said. “There were a lot of really big points, and if just a couple of them would have gone differently, the set could have gone differently but today it worked in our favor.”
To and Hayes, who lost to their teammates in the District 16 final, faced District 15 champions Tyson Cowger and Aidan Bishop of Liberty in their sectional match.
In what turned into a contentious three-set victory, To and Hayes prevailed 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 to earn their state berth. Hayes played No. 1 singles most of the year for Park Hill and ended up pairing with the Trojans’ No. 4 player in the postseason.
“We knew we weren’t really controlling the second set so we lost the set,” Hayes said. “But we knew what we were doing wrong, and we knew we were the better team. We just came out focused in the third set and just kept rolling and just dealt with the pressure.”
To’s experience showed in the comeback in the third set.
Last season, To teamed with departed senior Joel Lesher on a district runner-up team. McFee was partnered with 2016 No. 1 Henry Eckold on the district champion tandem.
Both Park Hill team’s went 1-2 at state a year ago.
“It’s a lot of pressure, and I’ve been thinking about it for over a year but it feels good to get back,” To said.
Platte County also had a representative in Class 2 Sectional 8 with the first singles player in program history to advance out of districts in the current format.
Noah Singer, a junior, finished as the Class 2 District 16 runner-up after an upset victory against Park Hill South’s Joe Badalucco in the semifinals. Badalucco, a sectional qualifier in 2016, retired after losing the first set and trailing 1-0 in the second.
In sectionals, Singer faced off against Staley senior Carson Gates, who rolled to a 6-0, 6-0 victory. Despite the result, Singer made history and ended his season against one of the best players in the state.
“It’s definitely different,” said Singer, who plays No. 2 for Platte Conty. “I definitely gave it my all, but that guy is No. 2 in the state so he was just hitting winner after winner and I was doing everything I could but sometimes you just get beat.”
At districts, Platte County No. 1 Spencer Kunz and No. 3 Spencer Klopfer paired in doubles but lost a semifinal match to end their season Saturday, May 13 at Barry Park in Kansas City, Mo. As a junior, Kunz reached the district semifinals in singles but ended his career in doubles after a two-year run as the Pirates’ top player.
Park Hill senior Matt Zhang reached the singles semifinals before losing to Central freshman and eventual champion and state qualifier Cole Hopkins.
In the doubles final, McFee and Martin defeated To and Hayes 6-3, 6-3. To and Hayes earned their spot in sectionals with a semifinal upset of North Kansas City’s No. 2-seeded doubles team.
To and Hayes were No. 3, while McFee and Martin held seed as the No. 1.