Topeka — The Free State players didn’t just sit around to survive the five-and-a-half hour rain delay at the start of the state tennis tournament on Friday.
They went to a teammate’s father’s property in town, relaxed and played washers.
The Lawrence High players needed more cold-weather clothes, so they hopped in the team van and headed back to Lawrence. When they returned, they hung out in the van and walked around the Kossover Tennis Facility.
Neither tactic proved very effective on Friday, as the three city entrants who played in the first round of the tournament lost their first match, eliminating their chances to play today.
Four other players who had first-round byes will take to the court this morning, but the run is over for Lawrence High senior Ilan Rosen, senior Connor Schmidt and junior Matt Grom and Free State seniors Luke Cortese and Jack Hearnen.
Cortese said he took a nap before his doubles match with Hearnen.
“We’d been sleeping and so relaxed, so it was hard to get ready to play a match,” Cortese said.
The duo fell, 6-2, 6-4, to Michael Irwin and Britt Hansen from Goddard.
“I think they were a little better than us,” Hearnen said. “But we could’ve at least played them a little closer than what we did.”
Hearnen said their serves just weren’t sharp enough. A string also broke on Cortese’s racket — strung by teammate Patrick Carttar — and Cortese didn’t realize it until a couple errors later.
The pair won their second match, surviving a tiebreaker against Olathe North’s Jordan Baker and Nick Carroll to earn a point for Free State’s team score.
Schmidt and Groh also lost their first match, but refocused to win their second match, 9-3.
Groh said they came out flat in the first match and couldn’t recover.
“Anytime you go to state, it’s a good feeling, but just wish we could’ve done better,” Groh said.
Rosen came the closest to qualifying for play on Saturday, losing a match to Wichita Heights’ Arthur DaSilva, 5-7, 7-5 (10-3).
Rosen won his consolation match, 9-6. Considering that he had to convince LHS coach Chris Marshall to let him play singles this season, it was a fine accomplishment.
“We put out the competition and he stepped up to the task,” Marshall said. “I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Reflecting on his tennis career, Rosen found that it often defined his second semester.
“It’s something you do every day for hours, and you see a lot of improvement in yourself every season,” Rosen said. “It’s a really cool feeling to be able to see that in yourself.”
Play will start at 9 a.m. today. LHS freshman Thomas Irick will play Shawnee Mission West’s Vinny Pham. In the Sunflower League tournament, Pham defeated Irick, 8-2.
“He makes you fight for every point you win,” Irick said. “He’s just very mentally tough to beat.”
Irick is the lone Lions’ competitor, but Free State will send senior Andrew Craig to the court in singles and seniors Carttar and Chris Helt in doubles.