OMAHA — The Kearney High boy’s tennis team accomplished something it hadn’t done this millennium.
All four levels advanced to the quarterfinals of the Nebraska High School Boy’s Tennis State Championships on Thursday. And while they all fell short of making the second day, Kearney High coach Troy Saulsbury was proud of his squad’s feat.
“We were trying to remember the last time we had all four divisions get to the quarters and we can’t even remember the last time we did that,” he said.
The last time the Bearcats did so was in 1999 when they finished in third place. They finished Thursday in a fourth place tie with 24 points, which is four times as many as they scored last year.
There weren’t any let downs for Kearney, either. No Bearcat was upset in any match. All of their losses came to top three seeds.
Matt Case, who had hopes of making the second day at No. 1 doubles, couldn’t get past No. 3 seed Thomas Kennedy of Creighton Prep.
“Case got better as the day went,” Saulsbury said. “He just ran into a player that played amazing today in the quarters. Case threw everything he could at (Kennedy). It just seemed like he always came back with an even better shot. On a day like that, you just tip your hat to your opponent because he played really well.”
Case, the Bearcats all-time wins leader, closed out his career by reaching unchartered territory. He made it to the quarterfinals for the first time after three years of competing in the field.
“I was super excited for (Case) because he’s had a rough go at state and to see him put himself at least in a position to get to that second day, it really says a lot,” Saulsbury said.
At No. 2 singles, Caleb Capellen had the toughest draw of any Bearcat as an eight seed, despite posting a 24-3 record.
The sophomore fell to Lincoln Southwest’s Alexander Woodward, who beat Case during the regular season. But there was no shame in the way Capellen lost to the No. 1 seed.
“I think Capellen showed that he didn’t get the seed he deserved,” Saulsbury said. “I think he should’ve been up a little higher. It’s unfortunate he drew the eight-seed and had to face Woodward but he rose to the challege. He gave Woodward everything he could handle. That was the best match (Capellen) played all year.”
Seth and Ty Liveringhouse rallied after early deficits in each set of their No. 1 doubles second round match. The senior brothers closed out their careers with a 26-3 record playing alongside each other.
“It was great to see them respond like that in that situation,” Saulsbury said of the Liveringhouse’s. “Creighton Prep just has a little more pace and a little more placement than we maybe are used to. I think that got to us early and we just couldn’t find a way to get back into the match.”
The Bearcats also got a points lift at No. 2 doubles, where Ryan Clark and Reed Wallace took down two foes in their first state appearances.
“They really showed me something against Lincoln High because those two kids are real solid,” Saulsbury said of Clark and Wallace.
That duo, along with Capellen, will be the top returners for a squad that will lose its No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles players.
But Saulsbury is confident his squad won’t see a drop-off in talent.
“I’m really excited for the future,” Saulsbury said. “Yeah, it’s going to be really tough to replace Case and the Liveringhouse’s. Those guys are great leaders for us. It’ll be tough but hopefully we have some people that’ll step up and fill their shoes.”
Messbarger off pulls upset, Holdrege duo alive
LINCOLN — Kearney Catholic’s Robert Messbarger ended his high school tennis career by getting a little revenge.
The senior avenged an Oct. 11 loss to Waverly’s Zachary Tabor with a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the second round of the Nebaraska High School Boy’s Tennis Championships on Thursday. Though Messbarger was the only Kearney Catholic competitor to make it to the quarterfinals, KCHS coach Ron Messbarger was pleased with the total performance.
“Robert (Messbarger) played extremely well today,” he said. “Not only him but all six of our guys. I don’t think I could be any more proud of our team. They all have peaked in their play.”
Tyson Antillon and Noah Huddleston also picked up a first round win for the Stars, who finished the day with six points.
Alex Cantral was eliminated in the first round of No. 1 singles while Adam Keating and John Stuart fell victim to a Lincoln Christian squad they beat in the regular season.
“Some of the balls just didn’t go our way,” Messbarger said. “Whether Lincoln Christian played a little stronger than they did at Elkhorn, I don’t know.”
Ron Messbarger’s squad will have to replace six seniors. He said the strides his younger players made this season will help ease the transition process next season.
“I was impressed with the varsity and the JV on where they all started and where they all ended,” Messbarger said. “Overall, they all just improved so much.”
The Hub Territory’s lone players that will compete on Friday are Holdrege’s Walker Hohensee and Jared Karlson. Hohensee and Jared Karlson, the Class B No. 1 singles defending champions, stayed undefeated with a pair of wins on Thursday. The Duster duo will have a chance to repeat as state champs if they can get past Beatrice’s Michael Benson and Jordan Pieper in the semifinals.
Class A Team Standings
Creighton Prep 36, Lincoln Southwest 36, Papillion-La Vista South 26, Kearney 24, Lincoln East 24, Lincoln Southeast 24, Millard North 22, Papillion-La Vista 22, Omaha Westside 20, Lincoln North Star 14, North Platte 12, Grand Island 10, Lincoln High 10, Columbus 8, Norfolk 8, Omaha Central 8, Fremont 6, Lincoln Northeast 4, Omaha Burke 4, Omaha North 4, Omaha South 4, Bellevue West 2, Millard West 2, Omaha Bryan 2, Bellevue East 0, Millard South 0, Omaha Benson 0, Omaha Northwest 0.
Class B Team Standings
Elkhorn South 36, Lincoln Pius X 32, Omaha Skutt Catholic 32, Elkhorn 24, Grand Island Central Catholic 24, Beatrice 20, Hastings 18, Ralston 18, Holdrege 16, Mount Michael Benedictine 16, McCook 14, Omaha Gross Catholic 14, Omaha Brownwell-Talbot-Concordia 12, Lexington 10, Waverly 10, College View Academy 8, Kearney Catholic 6, Omaha Roncalli Catholic 6, York 6, Alliance 4, Lincoln Christian 4, Adams Central 2, Gretna 2, Nebraska City 2, Gering 0, Scottsbluff 0, South Sioux City 0.