MCPHERSON—Abilene’s Matthew Barlow defeated Max Pyle of McPherson 6-4, 7-5 setting up a championship match with Quinn Dippel this afternoon in the Class 4A regional tennis tournament today.
Barlow and Dippel, a two-time Class 4A state champion, have met twice this year and Dippel has won both matches.
Abilene’s doubles team of Connor Kijowski and Kaynan Anderson lost to Ryan and Peter Horton of McPherson 6-1, 6-2. They will play for third place. The other doubles match between Connor Schafer and Ben Davidson of McPherson and Nick Wilson and Evan Schmidt of Buhler was still being played at press time.
“They are two very good doubles’ teams,” said Abilene coach Garry Stredney. “Either one will be difficult to beat.”
MCPHERSON — The Abilene tennis team is state bound.
Regardless of the outcome of the finals here Friday morning, Matthew Barlow in singles and Connor Kijowski and Kaynan Anderson in doubles are headed to the Class 4A state tournament at the Kossover Tennis Center in Topeka on May 11-12.
Today, each plays in the semifinals of the Class 4A regional after winning two matches on Thursday. Each team has fourth place locked up as the top six in the respective brackets qualified. Today they play for a possible seed in the state tournament.
“This was a fantastic day,” said Abilene coach Garry Stredney. “I feel bad for our twos. They didn’t make it but this is a very difficult regional and our ones played fantastic.”
The match of the day was when Kijowski and Anderson upset Kelly Pihl and Teddy Smith of Smoky Valley, 6-4, 0-6, (10-6) to advance to the semifinals against No. 2 seeded McPherson team today.
“It is a weight off our shoulders,” said Kijowski after the super tiebreaker. “We just wanted to qualify for state.”
“I can sleep well tonight,” Anderson said.
Both said the pressure is off now that they qualified for state.
“There’s just not as much pressure now,” Kijowski. “We can go out and just play. We made state. That’s what we wanted.”
“We’re going to have to play just as well or better tomorrow,” Anderson added.
Both players recalled that the Smoky Valley team beat Abilene 8-0 at the Salina South tournament.
“Before that game at Salina we had just played a tough one,” Anderson said. “It went to a tie breaker, too. I think we were just physically and mentally drained (for the Smoky Valley match).”
“We weren’t even there,” Conner said of the first meeting. “We knew we could beat them. They didn’t think we would come out like we did.”
“The No. 1 doubles had an awesome day of tennis,” Stredney said. “That was one of the best matches I have seen in years. What a tremendous match! Those guys beat us 8-0 at Salina and they thought they would have a fairly easy time with our guys. But we played the way we are capable of. They served well and they returned well but their lobs and their groundstrokes really were the key to this.
“Their confidence was so high in that game,” he added. “That’s what they were lacking up to this point.”
After winning the first match 6-4, Abilene lost 0-6, setting up the 10 point super tiebreaker.
“That was a critical set,” Stredney said of the 6-4 win. “Smoky came out and played well. The second set they broke our serve and all of a sudden you could see it going downhill. They (Smoky Valley) gained momentum. When we split sets, I told them that nothing mattered up to this point. It’s a super tiebreaker. Either team can win. We’ve practiced them all week just for this occasion. You have to be aggressive and play like you can.”
During the super tiebreaker, Abilene led 6-4, then Abilene gave up two points and the score was 6-6. They didn’t lose a point after that.
“They made a few mistakes and we didn’t let them back in it,” Anderson said.
“We had some problems halfway through the year,” Anderson said of the season. “We started off good then had some problems. We’re playing better now.”
“When league came along we said ‘we gotta win now,’” Kijowski said.
“Matthew didn’t play at the top of his game today but he didn’t have to,” Stredney said. “He was just so much better than the kids he played because of his seed. Today was the day to qualify for state, not necessarily play your best. That is going to come tomorrow, hopefully.”
“I didn’t play very well but I got through it,” Barlow said. “I didn’t adjust well with whomever I played.”
Barlow said he was not concerned about playing two-time state champion Quinn Dippel, who handed him his only two losses this year. Dippel also breezed through the top half of the bracket.
“I’m not worried about beating him at all,” Barlow said. “I just want to get to the finals. I just want to do the best I can.
“I’m just psyched that they are going,” he said of the No. 1 doubles. “It sets my mood better and I can be confident tomorrow.”
Friday Barlow starts off with Max Pyle, a McPherson player he barely beat last summer.
“He’s gotten better but so have I,” he said. “It will be really tough.”
In singles, Barlow was seeded second. He defeated Briton Hawk of Smoky Valley 6-1, 6-0. He then defeated Kevin Vonfeldt of Larned 6-4, 6-0.
On the other side of the bracket No. 1 seed Dippel will play Jeret Johnson of Larned.
Abilene’s Billy Yeager lost to J.D. Tyler of Buhler 9-4.
Abilene’s doubles team beat Cater Champlin and Fred Nurhberg of Concordia 6-1, 6-1.
Abilene’s team of Trey Jackson and Ben Weissenbach lost to Jacob and Daniel Thayer of Buhler 6-4, 6-2.
The Chapman Irish started the tournament with a difficult draw. Shane Williams played Dippel in the first round and lost 6-0, 6-0. Chett Floyd lost to Drew Knapp of Concordia 9-3.
Kade Stroude and Nathan Nelson drew No. 4 seeded Dean Dahlsten and Peter Jensen and lost 6-0, 6-0.
Adrian Fink and Riley O’Neal drew the No. 3 seed and lost to Pihl and Smith of Smoky Valley 6-0, 6-0.