WINFIELD — Four years ago, Andrew Snell, Kaden Stewart, and Nolan Schrader began their McPherson High School tennis careers by winning a state championship.
Fast forward to the present and the three seniors ended their careers the same way it began – with a state championship.
Saturday in Winfield, the most decorated senior class in program history clinched the program’s third state championship by outlasting defending state champions Wichita Collegiate in what became a two-team race.
After finishing second at state to Wichita Collegiate the last two years, the Bullpups are once again on top in Class 4A state tennis.
“These boys are something special and are exactly what every coach dreams of having as they get to your program,” head coach Tyler Brown said. “That has a lot to do their families and how they raised these boys into men.”
The 2018 team may go down as the greatest of all time. The senior trio became the first to win multiple state championships in a career. Additionally, the Bullpups won all 10 tournaments this year for the first time in program history.
This is also the fifth straight year the Bullpups have finished in the top two at state.
With all the history the Bullpups made on the court this year, Brown appreciates the way his team remained humble.
“One of the most things I am proud of though is how our players are truly coachable,” Brown said. “That is probably one of the most rewarding things, seeing others ‘pass the buck’ or give back to make those around them or those at a earlier stage than them bring out qualities or give instruction to make them better. That in itself makes me sit back and say this season was a successful season.”
Schrader and Stewart capped off their careers with back-to-back doubles state championships. The duo defeated Andover Central’s Jason Reilly and Jason Thompson 6-3, 6-1 for their second consecutive state championship.
For Schrader, who played in four doubles state finals in his career, winning three of them, the feeling of a state championship match never gets old.
“This feeling never fades,” Schrader said, “especially playing with Kaden.”
“With it being senior year, especially to win it as a team, it’s an awesome feeling,” Stewart said.
Schrader is the only Bullpup to appear in four state championship matches. His three state doubles titles are also a program-high. Schrader will continue his tennis career at Bethel College next year.
“I literally used to have dreams about maybe winning state one day as a senior,” Schrader said. “To win it three years is unbelievably cool.”
In singles, Snell solidified himself as one of McPherson High’s most accomplished players. In his four years, Snell placed fourth, sixth, and third twice in singles.
Out of all the memories Snell made, the one’s he will cherish most include his teammates.
“I’ll remember the car rides with the guys and coming to tournaments and having fun,” Snell said. “I’m never going to get to play with them again so it means a lot.”
On Saturday, Snell lost a tight match to eventual state champion Wonjoon Cho in the semifinals before ending his career with a win in the third-place match.
Brown will miss Snell most for his actions off the court.
“What impresses me the most about Andrew is not his state finishes and what he does on the court, it’s what he does with his time and how he conducts himself off the court,” Brown said. “He is the definition of a class act.”
Snell’s counterpart in singles, junior Jarrod Nowak, made history by finishing second – the highest ever for a singles competitor in program history. Although Nowak fell to Cho in a thrilling three-set match, the stage is set for Nowak to become McPherson's first singles state champion next year.
“Jarrod has been an anchor since his freshman year,” Brown said. “Whatever the tournament coming up, you can count on him reaching at the minimum quarterfinals and semifinal matches.”
The Bullpups were rounded out by the sophomore doubles team of Rhett Edmonson and Jackson Schrader, who finished 10th. The duo made their varsity debuts this season and hardly disappointed.
The future is extremely bright for these two.
“I had never seen a team rise to the occasion of greatness like these two did this past Friday and Saturday,” Brown said.
In total, the Bullpups scored 48 points at state compared to Wichita Collegiate 41. Smoky Valley rounded out the top three with 27 points.
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