LINCOLN — Before playing his final high school tennis match Friday afternoon, Elkhorn South senior Nikita Fomichev thought back to past seasons.
“We were talking about it this morning,” Elkhorn South coach Steve Bischof said. “He said, ‘Coach, remember how bad I was as a freshman?’ (His record) wasn’t very good.”
Fomichev, who was at Elkhorn as a freshman before spending his past three years at Elkhorn South, was more than good as an upperclassman.
After going undefeated to win the No. 2 singles state title as a junior, Fomichev capped a one-loss season this fall with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Lincoln Christian’s Tyler Grove in the No. 1 singles final of the Class B state meet at the Abbott Sports Complex.
Fomichev leaped in the air and let out a yell when he won the final point to complete a 31-1 season — his only loss was to Millard North’s David Liu, Class A’s No. 1 singles state champion. Fomichev said he enjoyed this title more than his first.
“No. 1 singles is a more prestigious award and I’m just honored to have it,” Fomichev said. “To represent my school at the No. 1 spot is good enough, but to win it is just kind of surreal.”
Elkhorn South also had the state champion at No. 2 singles as sophomore Zahler Zandt rallied for a 5-7, 7-5, 6-0 win in the final over York’s Jared Miller. Those singles victories allowed Elkhorn South to cruise to its second straight team title. The Storm finished with 51 points, followed by Omaha Skutt with 3612 and Lincoln Christian with 34.
Elkhorn South, which had only two seniors playing at state, won last year’s state meet by 112 points.
“Last year, we kind of snuck in. I don’t think many people expected us to do much. This year, we had a target on our backs. But the guys held up,” said Bischof, whose doubles teams both finished in the top three.
Fomichev trailed early in his final as Grove got an early break of serve to take a 3-1 lead. But Fomichev started making more forehand winners and ended up winning the last five games of both sets.
“Beginning of the match, I focused on how cold it was and how freezing my ears were,” Fomichev said. “I just let that go and focused on tennis.”
Zandt won the No. 2 singles title by winning the match’s final 10 games. Miller was serving with a 5-3 lead in the second set before Zandt started to take control at the net.
“I started playing smarter, not going for so many hard shots. Things started to click,” said Zandt, who finished fourth at state in No. 1 singles last year.
He also saw the benefit of playing Fomichev each day in practice.
“It helped Zahler to hit against a guy like (Nikita) who pounds the ball and stays so focused,” Bischof said.
Fomichev and Zandt entered state as No. 1 seeds. Elkhorn South’s No. 1 doubles team of Alec Lubben and Patrick Thomas also was a top seed, but they finished third as Holdrege juniors Jared Karlson and Walker Hohensee defeated them 7-6, 6-2 in the semifinals.
Elkhorn South led 5-2 in the first-set tiebreaker before Karlson and Hohensee grabbed the momentum and never let go of it. After the semifinal win, the Holdrege team defeated Omaha Skutt’s Brian Carmody and Andrew Johnson 6-4, 6-2 in the final.
“We kind of felt we had nothing to lose. We were the fourth seed and just gave it our best shot,” Hohensee said.
It was the first-ever state tennis title for Holdrege. Karlson and Hohensee, who have played together since the seventh grade, were close as sophomores when they were state runners-up at No. 1 doubles.
“It’s probably a pretty big part of the game,” Hohensee said of playing with the same partner for so long.
Lincoln Christian’s Alex Carlson and Tanner Hill Bloyd won the No. 2 doubles title, defeating Elkhorn South sophomores Jonah Clark and Luke Johnson 6-4, 6-2 in the final.
Team scoring: Elkhorn South 51, Omaha Skutt 36.5, Lincoln Christian 34, Holdrege 24, Lincoln Pius X 24, Grand Island Central Catholic 22.5, Adams Central 22, Elkhorn 21, Alliance 20, Omaha Brownell-Talbot/Concordia 20, Omaha Roncalli 14, York 14, McCook 12, Hastings 10, Elkhorn Mount Michael 10, Lexington 6, Ralston 6, Beatrice 4, Lincoln College View 4, Kearney Catholic 4, Nebraska City 4, Omaha Gross 4, Scottsbluff 4, Waverly 4, Gering 0, South Sioux City 0.
No. 1 singles: Championship: Nikita Fomichev, Elkhorn South, def. Tyler Grove, Lincoln Christian, 6-3, 6-2. Third place: Brock Dillon, Elkhorn, def. Jordan Nash, Adams Central, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. Semifinals: Fomichev def. Dillon 6-1, 6-1; Grove def. Nash 0-6, 6-3, 6-3.
No. 2 singles: Championship: Zahler Zandt, Elkhorn South, def. Jared Miller, York, 5-7, 7-5, 6-0. Third place: Quinten Harshbarger, GICC, def. Zaachary Legband, Skutt, 6-3, 6-3. Semifinals: Zandt def. Legband 6-2, 6-4; Miller def. Harshbarger 6-4, 2-6, 6-1.
No. 1 doubles: Championship: Jared Karlson-Walker Hohensee, Holdrege, def. Brian Carmody-Andrew Johnson, Skutt, 6-4, 6-2. Third place: Alec Lubben-Patrick Thomas, Elkhorn South, def. Jack Olsson-Landon Warner, Pius, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. Semifinals: Karlson-Hohensee def. Lubben-Thomas 7-6 (5), 6-2; Carmody-Johnson def. Olsson-Warner 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
No. 2 doubles: Championship: Alex Carlson-Tanner Hill Bloyd, Lincoln Christian, def. Jonah Clark-Luke Johnson, Elkhorn South, 6-4, 6-2. Third place: Zachary Pohlman-Griffin Schring, Skutt, def. Samuel Johnson-Ryan Kern, Hastings, 6-3, 6-1. Semifinals: Clark-Johnson def. Johnson-Kern 6-2, 6-1; Carlson-Hill Bloyd def. Pohlman-Schring 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Contact the writer: