After winning the regular season duals, the formula for Kapaun to win its second-straight City League title, and its first outright title since 1997 was easy. The Crusaders simply needed to win the league tournament and the championship was theirs. But in practice, Kapaun had to rely on its depth to unseat 10-time City champion Bishop Carroll.
Tommaso Piani was slated to be a No. 1 doubles player for the Crusaders, but had to take on the No. 1 singles bracket. Kapaun also tapped junior varsity player Fred Oxler to step in for Piani on the doubles team with Dustin Herman. The Crusaders took first in both No. 1 brackets to score 62 team points, enough to beat Carroll’s 58 points and take the City League outright.
“For those guys to come through and still win it with our JV guys playing in the tournament today, that was just huge for me,” said Kapaun head coach Chip Reed. “I brought up two seniors that are not in our top six. They have played a lot of varsity, but they are not in our top six. And for those kids, for four years to do everything right, to get a chance to play in the City League tournament, and to be a part of this championship, I’m so happy for them.”
In the No. 1 singles bracket, Piani faced a tough opponent in Wichita West’s Derek Drew. The two faced each other in a dual earlier in the week with Piani taking a three-set win. In the league tournament, Piani fought off fatigue from the heat in the second set to pull away for a 6-3, 6-3 win.
“It was really warm,” said Piani. “So I started slow because I wasn’t used to it. I started feeling good and my hitting got better. I came back from 2-0, and then when I got the first set I thought, ‘I can make it.’ In the second set it went good until I was 3-0 up, and then my energy went down.”
Drew fought back to cut the Piani lead in the second set to 3-2, but Piani regrouped to get the win.
The newly formed Kapaun doubles team of Herman and Oxler didn’t exactly get off to the start Oxler was looking for.
“Thursday night at our banquet, I said, ‘You are playing doubles with Dustin,’ said Reed. “(Oxler) said, ‘Is he going to hit me in the back?’ I don’t know if you know who Dustin is, but he is the hardest hitter I’ve ever seen. And he hit (Oxler) in the back in the first match they played.”
After Oxler’s nightmare had become a reality, the two came together to navigate the No. 1 doubles bracket to the championship match against Carroll’s duo of Patrick McKenzie and Jozsef Szucs. Once in the title match, the Kapaun pair had the chemistry to battle to a 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 win for first place giving the Crusaders crucial points against the Golden Eagles in a tight team race.
While Kapaun was busy sweeping the No. 1 brackets, Carroll kept the league race interesting by sweeping the No. 2 brackets.
The Golden Eagle doubles team of Nate Thom and Kaleb Ward kept Carroll’s hopes of an 11th-straight league title alive with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 win over Kapaun’s Payton Miller and Bruce Moore for No. 2 doubles gold. Ward and Thom broke Miller and Moore right off the start of the first set to take an early 2-0 lead. Kapaun got the break right back and was serving to tie it at 2-2 when Carroll slamed the door.
“I think it really kind of shut them down,” said Thom. “Until the second set when they came back and beat us. But I definitely think it hurt their morale a little bit.”
Kapaun regrouped in the second set before Ward and Thom settled down to take the third.
The No. 2 singles championship featured a showdown with Carroll’s Christian Nguyen and Wichita Northwest’s Josue Quintana. And just as Ward and Thom came through for the Golden Eagles, Nguyen powered through for a championship win over Quintana.
However the Carroll prowess in the No. 2 brackets was not enough to overcome the Kapaun dominance on the No. 1 side. Kapaun picked up 4 points of separation to win its second straight league title, and its first outright title since 1997, all at the expense of rival Carroll’s bid for 11-straight championships.
“It’s the whole team,” said Reed. “Twelve of these guys won matches for us to win this. It’s nice. Thirty two years ago was the last time we’ve won two in a row, so it’s been a long time for Kapaun.”
For complete results of the 2014 City League tournament, click here.