Entering a state tournament as a two-time defending state champion might provide a certain amount of confidence. And although Shawnee Mission East coach Sue Chipman knew the road to a three-peat would not be easy, the Lancers will travel home as state champions once again.
“It was up in the air,” said Chipman. “There were some strong teams coming from Johnson County. We weren’t the only team. We knew that it would be a dogfight right to the end and it was.”
Shawnee Mission East picked up 52 team points, beating second place Blue Valley Northwest’s 44 points.
The Lancers were helped out by the singles performances of Brooks Kendall and Jack Santilli who both made it to the championship finals. Kendall settled his nerves to pull away from his teammate and win a state title with a 6-5, 6-1 win.
“I got pretty nervous before the match started,” said Kendall. “I just wanted to go out there and have fun with it because it’s a once in a lifetime thing. I tried to take every point as it was and take it one point at a time.”
With a 5-3 lead in the first, Kendall was poised to take the set with relative ease. Santilli had other ideas. After tying the set at 5-5, Santilli was serving with a 30-15 lead. With Kendall set to serve into the sun in the next game, he knew he had to get a break in order to close out the first set.
“I tried really hard in that game to regroup,” said Kendall. “I got that break, got to 6-5, and just tried to close it out then.”
The loss was a tough one for Santilli to take, but Chipman believes the experience will be valuable. Although he won a state title in a doubles team last season, Santilli’s dues have now been paid as Kendall paid before him in the Lancer conveyor belt.
“Jack is no newbie to the championship situation,” said Chipman. “It’s just that Brooks has played a couple years longer in singles and is stronger, bigger, older, the whole business. If Jack continues to play high school tennis, we hope he will, and if he does one day he will be in the situation that Brooks is in.”
On the doubles side, it was Blue Valley Northwest’s team of Max Katcher and Brett White who fought off a furious comeback attempt by Blue Valley North’s Mitchell and Alex Samuelson to win a state title 6-2, 7-5.
Katcher and White cruised in the first set imposing their will in a 6-2 win. But in the second set, the Samuelson’s weren’t going anywhere. Katcher and White had to go down to the wire to clinch the title and avoid a deciding third set.
The doubles win helped power the Huskies to a second place finish, an improvement to the team’s third place finish last season.
But the weekend belonged to the Lancers once again.
“Hopefully it will sink in tonight and we can enjoy it a little bit,” said Kendall.