High school tennis players in these parts are used to battling the elements. And at Lee’s Summit North’s Mike Van Becelaere Memorial tennis tournament April 30, the eight teams in this doubles-only event had plenty of elements to battle.
A chilly North wind. Brief outbursts of rain.
For a moment, it even hailed.
“Crazy day today,” Lee’s Summit West coach Paul Klene said. “This was probably the worst weather day we’ve had all year long.”
Lee’s Summit West survived the crazy weather and the talented field to win the team title. The Titans took three of the four flights but still barely held off host Lee’s Summit North 39-36 in the team standings.
The Titans had the A flight champion in Franklin Zhong and Aaron Cunningham, who beat Kevin Glenn and Justin Bowne of Lee’s Summit 8-2 in the final. Niko Ramirez and Tanner Ferrell, who like Zhong and Cunningham have yet to lose a match this season, defeated Thomas Faulkenberry and Ryan Eckmann of Lee’s Summit North 8-1 in the B flight final. The C flight went to Kamal Fulghem and Will Marko, who beat Timmons and Thurn of Grain Valley 8-5 in that final.
“I was pleased with the way the day went,” Klene said, “Three of the champions in three of the flights is pretty good.”
Cunningham, a state tournament qualifier last season with Zhong, said the weather did make the day tougher, as did the fact that they had to start the tournament all over again after it was rained out the Saturday before.
“The matches went pretty well,” Cunningham said “There were a couple of times we had a lack of focus, but overall we pulled it out and we got the win.”
Focus hasn’t been much of a problem for West this season. The Titans are undefeated in duals this season, and Klene believes that success will help propel them come district tournament time.
“They’re playing well,” Klene said of the Titans. “They’re having a good season, They kind of expect to succeed so they come out confident and that really effects how they play.”
Confidence is never a problem for Lee’s Summit North in this tournament, which honors the memory of Mike Van Becelaere, the Broncos’ No. 1 player when he was killed in a motorcycle crash in 2002.
“We always want to do well, not just because it’s a competition but to honor the memory of Mike Van Becelaere and the efforts he had as a Bronco,” North coach Stuart Reece said. “I always feel like we have special effort on this day.”
That effort pulled the Broncos within three points of downing the powerful Titans. The difference, Reece said, was the 9-7 victory by Fulghem and Marko over Lance Lanier and Diego San Miguel in the C flight semifinals.
“We’ve traditionally done really well and today was no exception,” Reece said, “We lost one match to Lee’s Summit West that ended up ultimately deciding first and second place as a team. It was razor-thin.”
Lee’s Summit, which placed third with 31 points, had another finalist in Luke Cooper and Hazem Tariq, who lost to North’s Seth Templeman and Jacob Welsh 8-4 in the D flight championship.
“We had three of our four teams win their first-round matches, which is big in a tournament like this,” Lee’s Summit coach Megan Hobbs said. “We had some good comebacks and I was pretty pleased at how the kids showed up to play today.”
Especially on a day better suited for playing indoors.
“Here we are all bundled up in two layers of coats and next week we’ll probably be in shorts,” Klene said.