Sending two doubles pairs and a singles player to the Class 6A state tennis tournament this weekend, Manhattan High had good reason to believe it would bring home a medal.
Instead the Indians earned three.
Jake Seaton was 11th in singles, while the pairing of Kirkland Lambert and JT Turnley finished in 11th place in the doubles division to cap a solid weekend or the Indians.
While Seaton took 11th last year at state, the rest of Manhattan’s contingent in Topeka had not previously competed at the state tournament.
For Lambert and Turnley, the talent was there all year but facing tough competition allowed them to fly under the radar, entering state competition as a No. 3 seed. After opening up with a pair of wins, they ran into eventual state champions Jake Glazer and Jack Santili from Shawnee Mission East, losing 6-1, 6-2.
That loss put Turnley and Lambert into the consolation side of the bracket, where they finished out their weekend with a 1-2 record on Saturday to take 11th, defeating Luke Palmer and Shane Fowler of Derby in the 11th-place match.
“I knew they were good together,” MHS coach Chuck Kipp said. “They’ve been a good team all year. They’re a better team than the way they’ve played in certain matches.
“And they played an excellent match against the No. 1 seed overall. It didn’t look as good based on the score, but they played a very solid match. The score didn’t illustrate how well they played against the top seed. They took them to deuce several times and had opportunities that just didn’t go their way.”
For Seaton, repeating as the 11th-place finisher wasn’t the improvement he was looking for, but he did bring home another medal while winning his final match as an Indian.
After a first-round bye because of his No. 1 seed, Seaton opened up with a 6-1, 6-2, loss to Olathe Northwest’s Thompson Tong, which put him on the back side of the bracket. The senior rattled off wins against Dodge City’s Trevor Brock and Olathe Northwest’s Lee Fitchett to ensure he would be playing on Saturday.
In his first match Saturday, Seaton lost a match to Blue Valley West’s Matt Rodgers to set up a rematch with Tong. The second matchup didn’t go Seaton’s way in a 9-5 loss, sending him to the 11th-place match against Dodge City’s Jonas Gotte, which Seaton took 9-3 to end his competitive tennis career on a win.
“Both were really quality opponents,” Kipp said of Tong and Rogers. “Jake had a really good couple of days.”
Rounding out the group from Manhattan was the pairing of Matt and Ben Turnley. The freshmen lost their two opening matches to end their season on Friday.
“They lost both their opening-round matches Friday, so they didn’t qualify for the second day,” Kipp said. “But for a couple of freshmen to get into state and see the quality of play and see what they’re up against the next few years is a good experience.”
Manhattan finished tied for seventh place in the team standings, which was the best in the state among schools west of the Kansas City metro area.
“As a couple people pointed out, we were the highest ranked team outside of Kansas City,” Kipp said. “The top six teams were all from the Kansas City area. Those teams are pretty impressive as a whole, and all of them qualified six players from that regional, which is impressive because that’s a tough regional.”
Overall, Kipp was pleased with the way his team performed over the weekend, especially knowing all but Seaton will return next year. Kipp also has several freshmen waiting in the wings that saw some varsity action this year and will get more of a chance next year.
Kipp said each of the state competitors felt they could have played better, which he likes to see as coach.
“I know that they all felt they could do a little bit better,” Kipp said. “and that’s good that they have that idea that they could do better.
“We have a really strong returning group, so that’s good to see.”