When some of the youngest players in Free State High’s boys tennis program found themselves on the wrong end of some lopsided scores Tuesday afternoon at their home quadrangular, coach Oather Strawderman didn’t think about the short-term effects of losing.
“I don’t mind those matches,” the coach said, after the Firebirds fell to Olathe Northwest, 4-0, tied Shawnee Mission Northwest, 2-2, and defeated Shawnee Mission North, 4-0. “I don’t mind losing 0-9 or 1-9 against strong competition. It gives us an opportunity to see what we need to be growing toward.”
Three of the six Firebirds are freshmen: No. 1 singles player Ian Pultz-Earle and the No. 2 doubles team of Jonah Pester and Seamus Ryan. Pultz-Earle finished 2-1, and Pester-Ryan went 1-2.
Strawderman decided against easing the ninth-graders into high school tennis at the junior-varsity level. Losing by a large margin just happens to be the roughest part of being thrown into the fire.
“Frankly, I like to have my strong freshmen — if that’s the way it works out as far as the team goes — be able to play varsity,” the coach said. “I don’t mind taking a couple of knocks, because those people who are getting varsity experience as freshmen are going to be so much stronger when they’re juniors and seniors.”
Thanks to wins by Pultz-Earle and No. 2 singles player junior David Neff, Free State tied with SMNW in what Strawderman considered the most positive point of the quad.
“I really think the matches that they won today were matches that we should’ve won,” he added.
After 0-2 starts, the No. 1 doubles pair of senior Stephen Anderson and junior Sam Solis, as well as Pester-Ryan, closed the afternoon victorious against SMN.
Anderson, the lone FSHS senior, left impressed with the play of Pultz-Earle in particular and said he and Solis lacked momentum in their first two setbacks.
“We finally got it in our last match. We got our niche,” Anderson said of their victory versus SMN. “We got to the net more, and that helped a lot. And we just played with more confidence than in the other two (matches).”
If Strawderman is correct, the team’s freshmen will look back on days like this as confidence-builders, too.
Olathe Northwest 4, Free State 0
No. 1 singles — T. Ficky, ONW, def. Ian Pultz-Earle, FSHS, 9-0
No. 2 singles — T. Tong, ONW, def. David Neff, FSHS, 9-2
No. 1 doubles — D. Fabiano-T. Dearborn, ONW, def. Stephen Anderson-Sam Solis, FSHS, 9-0
No. 2 doubles — L Fitchett-A.Buhel, ONW, def. Jonah Pester-Seamus Ryan, FSHS, 9-1
Free State 2, SM Northwest 2
No. 1 singles — Pultz-Earle, FSHS, def. Travis Calvin, SMNW, 9-1
No. 2 singles — Neff, FSHS, def. Kyle Akogi, SMNW, 9-1
No. 1 doubles — R. Walsh-Sam Gay, SMNW, def. Anderson-Solis, FSHS, 9-1
No. 2 doubles — C. Russell-N.Sterns, SMNW, def. Pester-Ryan, FSHS, 9-2
Free State 4, Shawnee Mission North 0
No. 1 singles —Pultz-Earle, FSHS, def. Jerry Duong, SMN, 9-1
No. 2 singles — Neff, FSHS, def. Anthony Giambalno, SMN, 9-4
No. 1 doubles — Anderson-Solis, FSHS, M. McLennon-C. Hamilton, SMN, 9-1
No. 2 doubles — Pester-Ryan, FSHS, def. C. Kaiter-K. Miller, 9-0