SM East wasn’t the only northeast Johnson County high school to take home a state tennis title this weekend.
Kansas City Christian emerged as winner in the 3-2-1A tournament in Goddard, earning the Panthers their first-ever boys tennis championship.
KCC Coach Brad Belden said the team thought they had a good shot at the title this year after last year’s champions Wichita Independent — who beat KCC by just one point to take the state title last year — lost three of their best players to graduation. But then the team learned that the 2013 state 4A champions from Wichita Collegiate were moved into the 3-2-1A class for 2014.
“We thought, ‘This is going to be a lot harder than we thought,’” Belden said.
But anchored by singles star Johnny Goodwin, who won the 3-2-1A title as a freshman and came in second place last year, KCC was able to put together a winning performance. Goodwin beat Stratton Brown of Sacred Heart High School in Salina 6-1, 6-1 for his second individual title Saturday.
With the help of the doubles teams of Alex Kartsonis and Jackson Vander Ark, who came in third overall, and William Vander Ark and Tuner Jones, who came in ninth overall, the Panthers secured their first team title by seven points, edging out Wichita Collegiate. Belden said Jones and William Vander Ark’s first-round victory over Wichita Collegiate’s #2 doubles team was key to the Panthers’ victory.
“By knocking them out, we were able to earn a lot of team points that they couldn’t,” he said.
And there’s more good news for KCC fans: The Panthers will lose no players from this year’s championship team.
“We’re all freshman and juniors this year,” Belden said. “So everyone will be back.”