Morgan Schilling grieved with his Regis Jesuit teammates earlier this season, but relished the chance to celebrate with them at the end.
The Raiders’ No. 1 singles player leaned on his teammates to help him manage his emotions during a three-hour, three-set win in a dual match against Cherry Creek Sept. 30 shortly after he lost his grandpa. He was surrounded by them again in better circumstances Oct. 19 at Gates Tennis Center.
Schilling won the No. 1 singles state championship — one of four on the day for the Raiders — and was a force behind Regis Jesuit’s second straight team title.
“They were all praying for me and they helped me get through the long match against George (Cherry Creek’s Cavo),” Schilling said after his 6-4, 6-3 win over Fairview’s Luke Silverman.
“It’s something I don’t get in USTA tennis, so I really like being part of a team,” he added. “It feels amazing and I’m just happy I could contribute to my team.”
Schilling, a junior, joined sophomore Andy Schuiling (No. 2) and freshman Cameron Kruep (No. 3) to give Regis Jesuit the first championship singles sweep at the 5A state tournament since Fairview did it back in 2014.
The Knights didn’t win the team title that year, but the Raiders did this time as the No. 4 doubles teams of senior Nathan Tolva and sophomore Alexander Samuelson also won individually and all seven positions placed in the top four.
The No. 1 doubles team of junior Grigor Karakelyan and sophomore Conor Kaczmarczyk placed second, the No. 2 doubles team (juniors Jack Carbone and Ryan McCarthy) took third and the senior No. 3 doubles duo of seniors Thomas Williams and Will Markowski ended up fourth to help the Raiders to a winning total of 83 points, 13 more than runner-up Cherry Creek.
“We had seven positions being represented on the final day — which is always your goal — and to have four of those five finals in the bag, that’s an incredible day,” said coach Laura Jones, who guided Regis Jesuit to the state championship for the third time since taking over in 2010 and to the program’s fifth title all-time.
Schilling’s victory — which capped an undefeated season — was perhaps the most feelgood moment of the tournament.
He dedicated his performance to the memory of his grandpa — not a tennis player himself, but the “center of the family” — and made a large segment of his extended family in attendance (including his grandma) proud with his championship win.
Schilling overcame early nerves and a fast start by Silverman — who he’d beaten earlier in the season at the Cherry Creek Invitational — to get a key break to win the first set and finished it off with an unwavering second set. It helped him put last season’s devastating 7-5, 7-5 loss to Chatfield’s Christian Holmes behind him.
“It’s nice to finally get last season’s loss out of my head,” Schilling admitted.
Jones relished watching one of her players set a goal for himself and finish it off the way he did.
“Morgan is very deserving; I would have been shocked if it didn’t end like that,” she said. “He was so focused. When he walked off that court last year after losing to Christian Holmes, he was pretty devastated. He made the commitment that that wasn’t going to happen again.”
Schuiling and Kruep both made the most of their debuts at the 5A state tournament to win their first state championships.
Schuiling played in the 4A state tournament last season while at Steamboat Springs, but did not place. He transferred to Regis Jesuit and took his game to a new level, as he didn’t even lose a single set during an undefeated season.
His first state championship came with a focused 6-4, 6-2 victory over Cherry Creek’s Matthew Batmunkh, who he defeated for a third time on the season.
“I didn’t really expect it, but right before the match I got super nervous,” Schuiling admitted. “Once I got out there, it was just like a normal match and I felt a lot better.”
Interestingly, Schuiling played Schilling at No. 1 singles last season when Regis Jesuit and Steamboat Springs met up in a dual match and Schilling won 6-3, 7-5.
Kruep gutted through an atypical performance in the semifinals — in which he needed three sets to beat Valor Christian’s Jack Scherer — and finished off an undefeated debut season.
He knew composure would be important to beating Cherry Creek’s Nick Svichar — who he’d beaten twice previously — and he kept calm the entire time in a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
“It’s incredible that we won all three singles matches and to be able to celebrate with them after how hard we worked is really special,” Kruep said.
Like Schilling, Tolva also got to experience a cathartic reversal of fortune from the previous season at the state tournament.
He and Carbone lost a heartbreaker in three sets in last season’s No. 4 doubles final, but he and Samuelson came through in the clutch (especially in a clinching tiebreaker in the second set) to get it done this time.
“Personally, I feel amazing,” Tolva said. “To do this in my senior year on the same court I lost on last year, I couldn’t be happier right now. It almost doesn’t feel real.”
Samuelson didn’t begin the season as Tolva’s partner, but once they were teamed up, he wanted to get the championship for his friend.
“I told him at the start of the season, ‘I want you to go out proud, buddy, I’m going to make this happen for you,’” he said. “I’m just thrilled.”
Though they didn’t win their positions, the remaining doubles teams were valuable contributors to the team championship.
In their first state tournament as a doubles team, Karakelyan and Kaczmarczyk (a state champion last season at No. 3 singles) nearly lost in the first round, but survived for a three-set win over Ralston Valley’s Connor McKenzie and Auron Hoyer and cruised from there into the No. 1 doubles championship final.
The duo faced Cherry Creek’s Aram Izmirian and Kiril Kostadinov, a team they’d beaten twice during the regular season, but the third time went differently as the Bruins prevailed 6-4, 6-2.
Carbone and McCarthy at No. 2 and Williams and Markowski at No. 3 both posted key results to end the second day of the tournament.
They bounced back from semifinal losses, to Denver East and Cherry Creek, respectively, to win playback semifinals and earn key points for the team. The Raiders and Bruins were tied through semifinals, but the doubles teams gave their team a five-point edge going into the final day.
Carbone and McCarthy, who suffered two of their three losses to the same Denver East duo of Mason Heimel and Will Franks, cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Mountain Vista’s Xander Larsen and Mihir Mahale in the third place match.
Williams and Markowski — who lost to Will and Blake Holst of Cherry Creek, the eventual state champions, in the semifinals — fell in a three-set tiebreaker with Denver East’s Jack Abbey and Quentin Wolfe to take fourth.
“We had two doubles teams that came away without winning today, which is obviously not your goal when you walk out on the court, but to get to the point of playing today you accumulated a lot of points on that yellow board for your team,” Jones said. “The doubles teams have everything to be proud of. They had great years and great tournaments.”
Regis Jesuit graduates Tolva, Williams and Markowski, but should return all three singles players and the remaining five doubles players with state placing experience for a potential run at another title.
“I think we had more depth and talent than last year and we’re young, so I’m hoping next year we can come out and do the same,” Schilling said. “We’ll see.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2019 CLASS 5A BOYS STATE TENNIS TOURNAMENT
Team scores: 1. REGIS JESUIT 83 points; 2. Cherry Creek 70; 3. Valor Christian 46; 4. Fairview 29; 5. Denver East 27; 6. Heritage 17; 7. Mountain Vista 15; 8. Greeley West 10; 9. Fossil Ridge 8, 10. Fort Collins 7; 11. Ralston Valley 5; T12. Monarch 3; T12. Rock Canyon 3; 13. Rocky Mountain 2; T14. Poudre 1; T14. Lakewood 1
Championship matches: No. 1 singles — MORGAN SCHILLING (REGIS JESUIT) def. Luke Silverman (Fairview), 6-4, 6-3; No. 2 singles — ANDY SCHUILING (REGIS JESUIT) def. Matthew Batmunkh (Cherry Creek), 6-4, 6-2; No. 3 singles — CAMERON KRUEP (REGIS JESUIT) def. Nick Svichar (Cherry Creek), 6-3, 6-2; No. 1 doubles — Aram Izmirian/Kiril Kostadinov (Cherry Creek) def. GRIGOR KARAKELYAN/CONOR KACZMARCZYK (REGIS JESUIT), 6-4, 6-2; No. 2 doubles — Nick Solimene/Truman Osburn (Valor Christian) def. Mason Heimel/Will Franks (Denver East), 6-2, 6-4; No. 3 doubles — William Holst/Blake Holst (Cherry Creek) def. Maxim Kokoshinsky/Jake Wicks (Fairview), 7-5, 6-3; No. 4 doubles — ALEXANDER SAMUELSON/NATHAN TOLVA (REGIS JESUIT)def. Nathan Henden/Ben Zhang (Cherry Creek), 6-2, 7-6
Third-place matches: No. 1 singles — Nico Jamison (Greeley West) def. George Cavo (Cherry Creek), 6-0, 6-1; No. 2 singles — Christian Trevey (Valor Christian) def. Chase Walters (Heritage), 6-3, 6-1; No. 3 singles — Jack Scherer (Valor Christian) def. Will Jones (Heritage), 4-6, 6-1, 6-3; No. 1 doubles — Luke Buekelman/Andrew Schell (Valor Christian) def. Reece Kelly/Max Duque (Mountain Vista), 6-1, 6-4; No. 2 doubles — JACK CARBONE/RYAN MCCARTHY (REGIS JESUIT) def. Xander Larsen/Mihir Mahale (Mountain Vista), 6-1, 6-1; No. 3 doubles — Jack Abbey/Quentin Wolfe (Denver East) def. THOMAS WILLIAMS/WILL MARKOWSKI (REGIS JESUIT), 6-3, 2-6, 7-6; No. 4 doubles — Ryan Pool/Diego Garcia-Gallo (Denver East) def. Owen Huskha/Andrew Yonan (Fairview), 7-6, 4-6, 7-6