SM North, SM Northwest to each be represented in state tennis tournament
OVERLAND PARK — With one of the more stacked groups of tennis teams in the state, it’s difficult to find spots to grab for the upcoming state tournament.
However, both Shawnee Mission Northwest and SM North found two spots at the regional tournament at Indian Creek Recreation Center on Friday.
One of the qualifiers was someone returning to the state tournament in SM North senior Keenan Smith, whose third-place finish was good enough against the competition.
“I was just so happy with him; he played really well all the way around,” SM North’s Chuck Harrelson said.
Smith cruised through his first two matches but then ran into one of his recent adversaries, SM West’s Vinh Pham. Smith had beat him different times last season, but Pham has taken every match this year.
Smith took the lead, winning the first set 6-4. However, Pham came back strong in the second and third sets winning 6-2 on both occasions.
Smith moved onto the third-place match where he defeated SM East’s Brooks Kendall (6-4, 6-3), securing a solid seed in the state tournament.
Although the Indians as a whole are still improving, having Smith’s influence is helpful for the entire group.
“He’s so positive and encouraging to the other guys,” Harrelson said. “He’s really competitive because he likes to see the other guys win. He hates to see other guys not give their best.”
Smith finished in ninth place last year at the state tournament, but now looks to put in a last push during his senior year before moving to Emporia State.
“I think what you’re going to see is the same old Keenan who’s willing to work hard and get everything he can and never quit,” Harrelson said.
The SM Northwest tennis team also grabbed a spot at the state tournament when the doubles team of Connor Mitts and Connor Holman beat out the other doubles team from Northwest.
“They’re a polite group that’s always willing to help you,” SM Northwest coach Ken Clow said.
Throughout the season, the Cougars have slowly progressed into a competitive program, but the competition of the regional was definitely difficult to overcome.
Still SM Northwest was pleased with how it finished up the season and is proud to be putting Mitts and Holman into the final tournament of the year.
“They’ve taken the lead of their own condition and their own development in the offseason,” SM Northwest assistant coach Bob Oliver said. “They’ve done everything we’ve asked of them.”