Arlandus Lowe knew he had two outstanding singles players coming into the 2016 boys tennis season.
The veteran Overland coach didn’t know, however, how much of a residual affect junior Dawid Kijak and senior Draden Hoover would have on others.
Enter No. 3 singles player Henry Vice, a senior who practiced with the two returning state qualifiers and no question benefited, parlaying that experience into a berth in the Oct. 13-15 Class 5A state tournament at Gates Tennis Center.
While it’s little surprise that perennial power Regis Jesuit qualified its entire team, the singles strength Overland showed at regionals was remarkable. Kijak and Hoover expected to return to state and they’ll have some unexpected company in Vice, who went into the Region 2 tournament at Fairview with a sub-.500 record, but emerged as a “very pleasant surprise” for Lowe.
“Having the opportunity to work with Drayden and Dawid has certainly helped Henry,” Lowe said. “You can become a bit star struck with the talent that surrounds you when you go to state for the first time, but having the opportunity to hit with those guys means he knows what it looks like.”
Kijak and Hoover both have big goals in the third state tournament of both of their careers. They’ll enter this season’s tournament in better spots as No. 1 seeds versus No. 2 spots last year, and they are also in different positions as Kijak won the No. 1 singles position and Hoover — who continues to battle a nagging rotator cuff injury — slides into the No. 2 spot.
In the regional finals, Kijak preserved his undefeated season with a tough three-set victory over Fairview’s Tommy Melville (a No. 2 singles semifinalist last season), while Hoover downed the Knights’ Ethan Schacht.
Regis Jesuit advanced its entire team to the state tournament for the second straight season. Coach Laura Jones had six regional champions and a runner-up in sophomore No. 1 singles player Kosta Garger, who made it despite retiring from the final in the opening set with a hamstring injury.
The Continental League champions are again loaded, particularly in the doubles ranks.
Senior Luca Abbott has two doubles state championships to his credit already and he and junior Will Dennen come into state with a 16-1 mark at No. 1 doubles, with the only loss coming to a team from 4A Kent Denver. The No. 2 duo of sophomore Evan Nuss and freshman Emilio Gonzalez-Cruz also lost to Kent Denver at the same Cherry Creek Invitational for their only defeat, and the No. 4 duo of juniors James O’Connor and Matthew Mahoney dropped a three-setter at the Cherry Creek tournament for their only defeat.
The No. 3 doubles team of Matt McCarthy and Gabe Caldwell-Nepveux suffered just two defeats, both in three sets.
The Raiders have a returning state champion in the field in singles, as senior Erich Nuss — who won the No. 1 doubles title last season with graduated Steven Bummer — is back at No. 3 singles. With just one loss during the season, Nuss is hoping to improve on his 2014 state performance (a first round loss) in the same position.
Grandview hasn’t had a ton of state qualifiers in the recent past, but junior Matthew Yan has become a constant state presence.
Yan made state as a freshman and sophomore — both times at No. 2 doubles with now-graduated partner Chris Burris — and he managed to get through again at No. 1 doubles with a new partner in senior Adhithya Basker.
The Wolves’ top duo collected the Region 4 championship with a three-set victory.
Grandview’s No. 2 doubles team of Michael Troutman and Matas Suziedelis worked through a playback to earn their trip to the state tournament.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2016 CLASS 5A BOYS STATE TENNIS TOURNAMENT
Aurora first round matches, 9 a.m. Oct. 13 at Gates Tennis Center
NO. 1 SINGLES: Upper bracket — Spencer Wolff, sr. (Broomfield) vs. DAWID KIJAK, JR. (OVERLAND); Lower bracket — KOSTA GARGER, SOPH. (REGIS JESUIT) vs. Jackson Holland, soph. (Fossil Ridge)
NO. 2 SINGLES: Upper bracket — Jackson Johnstone, jr. (Ralston Valley) vs. DRADEN HOOVER, SR. (OVERLAND); Lower bracket — Zach Keith, sr. (ThunderRidge) vs. PATRICK SEBY, JR. (REGIS JESUIT)
NO. 3 SINGLES: Upper bracket — HENRY VICE, SR. (OVERLAND) vs. Akhil Gupta, fr. (Fossil Ridge); Lower bracket — Trigg Hayward, fr. (Fruita Monument) vs. ERICH NUSS, SR. (REGIS JESUIT)
NO. 1 DOUBLES: Upper bracket — Charlie Dickey/Justin Briggs (Palmer) vs. ADHITHYA BASKER/MATTHEW YAN (GRANDVIEW); Daniel Auerbach/Carson Sexton (ThunderRidge) vs. LUCA ABBOTT/WILL DENNEN (REGIS JESUIT)
NO. 2 DOUBLES: Upper bracket — MICHAEL TROUTMANT/MATAS SUZIEDELIS (GRANDVIEW) vs. San Angell/Drew Hill (Cherry Creek); Lower bracket — Tucker Travins/Reilly Fredell (Coronado) vs. EVAN NUSS/EMILIO GONZALEZ-CRUZ (REGIS JESUIT)
NO. 3 DOUBLES: Lower bracket — Teddy Schoenfeld/Nathaniel Lim (Boulder) vs. MATT MCCARTHY/GABE CALDWELL-NEPVEUX (REGIS JESUIT)
NO. 4 DOUBLES: Lower bracket — Logan Pudalov/Jackson Brusino (Boulder) vs. JAMES O’CONNOR/MATTHEW MAHONEY (REGIS JESUIT)
Full Class 5A state first round pairings & brackets, here.