KANSAS CITY -- McPherson High School’s Nolan Schrader and Andrew Snell played their way into the record books, Kaden Stewart teamed up with Schrader to win a state championship, and Jarrod Nowak added another state medal to his collection. Overall, it was a pretty solid weekend for the McPherson High boys’ tennis team.
The Bullpups battled with defending state champions Wichita Collegiate for a state championship on Saturday, but the Spartans had too much depth to be denied a repeat. The Bullpups may have settled for second place, but no one can deny the success they had at state.
In the doubles draw, Schrader and Stewart cruised to a state championship, finishing off a masterful tournament with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Ben Murphy and Max Wheeler of Wichita Collegiate. Schrader and Stewart refused to drop a set all tournament long, dominating the field en route to a state championship.
For Schrader, Saturday was his school-tying third trip to a state doubles final; only Jaime Crist from 2002-2004 has ever appeared in three doubles finals in McPherson High history. Schrader has had three different partners in three years, including a state championship victory with Gallagher Martin in 2015, and a state runner-up with Kento Aizawa in 2016.
The expectations will be sky high in 2018, but next year is the last thing currently on Schrader’s mind.
“I’m not even thinking about next year, honestly,” Schrader said.
Schrader did admit the experience of having played in the last two state championships helped him in Saturday’s match.
“We just needed to play our game and play smart, and that’s what we did; that’s where that experience helps,” Schrader said.
Stewart is also a three-time state medalist, having captured ninth in singles and doubles his freshman and sophomore years. But finishing his junior year with a state championship is a moment he will never forget.
“For me it’s crazy; going from ninth place in singles and doubles, and now getting first in doubles, it’s indescribable,” Stewart said. “I did approach it like a normal match. I was very nervous, but throughout the match Nolan reminded me to play my game and not worry about the other team, and that helped me a lot.”
McPherson High is known for its doubles — the last five Class 4A state doubles finals have included a team from McPherson — but singles has always lived in the shadow of doubles. Snell is trying to fix that.
As a freshman in 2015, Snell took fourth in the singles draw which was the highest finish for a singles competitor in school history. After taking sixth as a sophomore, Snell came back with a vengeance and took third this year. He marched all the way to the semifinals before falling 6-1, 7-6 to two-time state singles finalist Lakelin Conrad of Wichita Collegiate.
Snell was set to take on freshman Riudra Dixit of Parsons for third place, but came away with a default win after Dixit defaulted due to cramps. It may have been an anticlimactic way to make history, but it is still meaningful to Snell nonetheless.
“It means everything to me,” Snell said. “I’ve had this goal my entire life. To get to accomplish this with my teammates is really cool.”
Snell, Schrader, and Stewart make up the highly talented Class of ‘18, but sophomore Jarrod Nowak is right up there with them.
Nowak finished fifth in singles as a freshman, and was one heartbreaking match away from joining Snell in the semifinals as a sophomore. But the daunting heat that affected multiple players at the tournament caused Nowak to cramp at the worst possible moment.
For the second straight season Nowak had the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed in his draw, and this time he battled with Will Grier of Bishop Miege in the quarterfinals. After dropping the first set, Nowak stormed back to take the second set and send the match to a deciding third.
A hobbled Nowak gave the eventual singles state champion all he could handle, but dropped the final set 6-4. Still, head coach Tyler Brown appreciated the fight from his sophomore.
“Jarrod showed tremendous effort and determination in not only finishing that match, but by doing everything at the end of day one to be ready for day two, and giving it a go and having to play at not 100 percent, but being able to finish the tournament in sixth place,” Brown said.
The Bullpups finished with 38 points while third-place finisher Independence scored 29. State champions Wichita Collegiate scored 50 points in head coach Dave Hawley’s 50th state championship.
The Bullpups return all four state medalists next year, but will need to replace the doubles team of Hadley Hageman and Patrick Munsey. With the nucleus of the team returning for one more go-around, Brown expects his team to be competitive once again in 2018.
“Knowing how hard these guys work on their game, I know we will be in the hunt for a state title once again next year,” Brown said.