A day before the season began, Trent Gardner didn't know if he wanted to play tennis this year.
After his big upset Thursday at the Class A state tournament, the Omaha Westside senior is happy that he did.
The seventh-seeded Gardner knocked off the No. 2 seed, Lincoln Southeast senior Matt Strasburger, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the No. 1 singles quarterfinals at the Koch Family Tennis Center. His win put Westside in a tie for first with Omaha Creighton Prep at 34 points.
And his victory comes after a difficult season last year at Lincoln High.
“It's nice to show everybody that even though I've made some mistakes, I'm back on track and still a good tennis player,” Gardner said.
After dropping the first set, Strasburger fought back to even the match. But he faced an additional obstacle in the final set: leg cramps.
“They began in the first game of the third set and kept getting worse,” said Strasburger, who was a No. 1 doubles runner-up at state last year.
Despite the pain, Strasburger managed to garner a match point at 5-3, but double-faulted and subsequently dropped the final four games. He credited Gardner for earning the win.
“He came out firing and playing some of the best tennis in the state,” Strasburger said.
Gardner will face the No. 3 seed, Grand Island junior Joe Huston, in the semifinals on Friday. In the other half of the bracket, top-seeded Millard North junior David Liu, the defending state champion, will take on Creighton Prep senior Matt Eglseder.
Eglseder, the No. 5 seed, ousted fourth-seeded Papillion-La Vista South freshman Chris Dean 1-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 in a 3½-hour marathon.
In the No. 1 doubles competition, reigning champions Michael Koch and Niko Piperis dropped only three games in two matches as they rolled to the semifinals.
The top-seeded Creighton Prep seniors and second-seeded Lincoln Southwest juniors C.J. Sjulin and Justin Brinkman won their matches with identical scores (6-0, 6-1 and 6-0, 6-2) against their opponents.
The Junior Jays duo will play the No. 5 seed from Westside, seniors Michael Mellen and Noah Placzek. Lincoln Southwest meets Lincoln Southeast junior Danny Clare and senior Andrew Plamann, who are the No. 3 seed.
In the No. 2 singles semifinals, the No. 1 seed, Lincoln Southeast senior Bobby Curry, will challenge fifth-seeded sophomore Sean Padios from Westside, and Millard North freshman Raymond Thai, the No. 7 seed, will play third-seeded Lincoln East sophomore Jacob Wenger.
Top-seeded Lincoln Southeast seniors Max Cuppens and Nick Wimmer take on the fourth seed, Millard North sophomore Brent McKnight and freshman Andrew Bristol, in the No. 2 doubles semifinals. The other semifinal will feature the No. 2 seed, Creighton Prep junior Peter Furlow and sophomore Stavros Piperis, against third-seeded juniors Donald Breit and Alexander Heywood of Lincoln East.
Team scoring: Omaha Creighton Prep 34, Omaha Westside 34, Lincoln Southeast 32, Millard North 32, Lincoln East 24, Lincoln Southwest 24, Papillion-La Vista South 22, Grand Island 18, Papillion-La Vista 18, Millard West 16, Lincoln North Star 14, Omaha Central 12, Fremont 10, Kearney 6, Lincoln High 6, Norfolk 6, Bellevue East 4, Columbus 4, Lincoln Northeast 4, Omaha Benson 4, Bellevue West 2, Millard South 2, North Platte 2, Omaha Northwest 2, Omaha Bryan 0, Omaha North 0, Omaha South 0.
Quarterfinals: No. 1 singles: David Liu, MN, def. Colin Buckley, OC, 6-1, 6-0. Matt Eglseder, CP, def. Chris Dean, PLVS, 1-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5. Joe Huston, GI, def. Gabriel Shrank, MW, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Trent Gardner, OW, def. Matt Strasburger, LSE, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. No. 2 singles: Bobby Curry, LSE, def. Gavin Kennedy, LSW, 6-0, 6-3. Sean Padios, OW, def. Nathan Singh, CP, 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-1. Jacob Wenger, LE, def. Matthew Safranek, PLV, 6-2, 6-2. Raymond Thai, MN, def. Biraj Parajuli, PLVS, 6-4, 6-4. No. 1 doubles: Niko Piperis/Michael Koch, CP, def. Nels Holmquist/John Loudon, LE, 6-0, 6-2. Michael Mellen/Noah Placzek, OW, def. Sam Palensky/Grant Horton, PLVS, 6-4, 7-5. Danny Clare/Andrew Plamann, LSE, def. Jonathan Slabaugh/Michael Knudsen, MN, 6-2, 6-4. C.J. Sjulin/Justin Brinkman, LSW, def. Todd Sutter/Benjamin Wachholtz, PLV, 6-0, 6-2. No. 2 doubles: Max Cuppens/Nick Wimmer, LSE, def. Jacob Larsen/Ty Liveringhouse, K, 6-0, 6-1. Brent McKnight/Andrew Bristol, MN, def. Cameron Spurrier/Matthew Andersen, LSW, 6-2, 6-2. Donald Breit/Alexander Heywood, LE, def. Camden Bilyeu/Aaron Glazer, OW, 6-0, 6-1. Peter Furlow/Stavros Piperis, CP, def. Matthew Coffey/John Nguyen, LNS, 7-6 (2), 6-1.