Boasting a top-10 finish at last year’s Class 6A state tournament — as well as a potential second-straight state berth on the horizon — Dravid Joseph’s high school tennis career has seen no shortage of successes.
But following his team’s 8-1 near-sweep of Leavenworth in the final home match of his career Wednesday, the Free State High senior wasn’t quite ready to sit back and bask in the glory of his accomplishments.
“I’m still thinking about regionals and going forward,” said Joseph, who teamed with Andrew Craig to earn an 8-4 victory at No. 1 doubles. “I’ll probably feel a little more nostalgic there.”
As the team’s lone senior and the biggest returning contributor from last year’s regional championship team, Joseph has become Free State’s most valuable piece this season, helping the Firebirds rebound nicely this spring despite the loss of three state qualifiers from 2009.
As Free State coach Oather Strawderman put it, “Everyone is just kind of improved by being around him.”
And while his path might have taken some unexpected turns since arriving at Free State as a sophomore — he decided recently to focus on doubles rather than singles heading into this spring’s postseason — it hasn’t diminished his impact.
“It’s been interesting,” Joseph said of his prep career. “I’ve kind of gone from playing singles to playing doubles, which isn’t something I would have foreseen. But it’s interesting to (look at) how it’s progressed.”
Even without Joseph’s usual contributions, however — he didn’t compete in No. 1 singles Wednesday as he typically does, opting to focus on doubles — Free State had little trouble holding off the Pioneers.
With the exception of No. 1 singles, the Firebirds didn’t lose a match in their final tune-up before Saturday’s regional tournament at Shawnee Mission East’s Harmon Park.
Jack Hearnen, Richard Lu, Nick Pellet, Phillip Bradshaw, Matthew Ham and Jake Henley each earned singles victories, while the doubles teams of Chris Helt and Patrick Carttar and Lu and Pellet added wins, as well.
Which should come as an encouraging sign to Strawderman, who’ll be counting on a number of those underclassmen next season to replace Joseph’s production.
“The kids have some big shoes to fill,” the coach said. “And not just performance-wise. He’s a kid everybody in school knows and likes. Everybody knows Dravid, and he will be missed.”