For weeks, Metro Conference coaches thought the league tournament title would be up for grabs as a handful of teams liked their chances.
That’s how the tournament played out Wednesday at Koch Tennis Center.
“This is the closest I’ve seen,” Omaha Creighton Prep coach Jerry Kowal said. “Usually it’s a two-team race, maybe three. We’d never seen a four-team race.”
Thanks to victories in both doubles brackets, the Junior Jays won that team battle with 23 points. Omaha Westside was second with 22, Papillion-La Vista was next with 21. Elkhorn South, runner-up to Prep in both doubles, was fourth with 16.
The day’s final match was No. 1 doubles, which went to a third-set tiebreaker and decided the team race.
Elkhorn South’s Andrew Nelson and Max Jordan, playing their first tournament together this fall due to an injury, won the second set 6-2, but Prep’s Timothy Chase and Shan Ramachandran regained control in the 10-point tiebreak.
Prep won the first four points and eight of the first nine. Chase served out the final two points in a 10-3 victory.
Prep’s Nick Huang and Josh Morales won No. 2 doubles 6-2, 7-5.
“This is the best we’ve played as a team with everyone stepping up and playing hard. Considering it’s a team effort, that’s why we have these,” said Kowal, referring to the team trophy and individual medals.
The singles brackets were won by the two favorites, who entered Wednesday a combined 55-1.
Papillion-La Vista senior Ethan Neil, the two-time defending state champion and unbeaten this season, lost two games on the day in winning No. 1 singles. Neil’s finals opponent, Westside’s Clark Rue, had a break point on the match’s opening game then held his first service game. But Neil took control after that on his way to a 6-1, 6-1 victory.
“He was playing really well but I just wanted to stay consistent, keep the course,” Neil said. “I think I played well and with this being one of my last high school events, I’m just looking to enjoy it with my team. Just keep playing hard until it’s over.”
Neil will head into next week’s state meet as the favorite to win his third title.
“He’s in a really good spot right now,” Papillion-La Vista coach Josh Siske said. “He’s playing at a really high level.”
Westside freshman AJ Shefsky dropped the No. 2 singles final’s first set 6-1 to Bellevue West’s Trey Conant before rallying. Shefsky won the third-set tiebreaker 10-4.
Team scores: Creighton Pep 23, Omaha Westside 22, Papillion-La Vista 21, Elkhorn South 16, Bellevue West 13.5, Millard North 12, Papio South 11.5, Millard West 6, Millard South 3, Gretna 2.5, Bellevue East 0.
Individual results (top four): No. 1 singles: 1, Ethan Neil, PL, def. Clark Rue, OW, 6-1, 6-1. 3, Jeremiah Witkop, BW, def. Nathan Ramashandran, CP, 6-0, 6-1. No. 2 singles: 1, AJ Shefsky, OW, def. Trey Conant, BW, 1-6, 6-1, 10-4. 3, Ben Boudreau, PL, def. Tanuskh Sharma, ES, 7-6 (6), 6-0. No. 1 doubles: 1, Timothy Chase-Shan Ramashandran, CP, def. Andrew Nelson-Max Jordan, ES, 6-4, 2-6, 10-3. 3, Allan Muinov-Connor Gharst, MN, def. Nolan Ray-Daniel Brocaille, PLS, 6-2, 7-5. No. 2 doubles: 1, Nick Huang-Josh Morales, CP, def. Miles Meier-Hayden Kelberlau, ES, 6-2, 7-5. 3, Tyler Hoke-Nick Olson, PL, def. Zev Gordman-Thomas Pate, OW, 3-6, 6-2, 10-8.
The Nebraska 100: Our greatest athletes
The Nebraska 100, originally selected in 2005 and then updated and re-ranked in 2015, came from a pool of nearly 500 names from the ranks of high school, college, amateur and professional sports from the past 140 years. Assistance came from a panel of veteran sports observers from across the state, with the newspaper's sports staff determining the final rankings.