De Soto tennis coach Michael Sullivan said it was first apparent to him three years ago.
It was finally realized last month.
The prep tennis careers of Andy Edwards and Dan Hoschouer came to an end in the Class 4A state tournament. The pair wrapped up their long, consistent and successful career with their best tennis and a fourth-place finish in the biggest tournament of the season.
Twice finishing in the state's top six and serving as the team's backbone during their three-year stint as De Soto's No. 1 doubles team, the pair went out in style, Sullivan said.
"Reaching the semifinals (at state), that was their goal," Sullivan said. "That was significant. You always want to go higher each year, and they did that."
The doubles team's run powered the way for what was easily one of the best seasons the boys program has ever enjoyed, a history that stretches more than 40 years. The Cats had the senior leadership in Edwards and Hoschouer and the young up-and-comers in singles mavericks Matt Edwards and Andrew Konetzni.
The 2007 Wildcats had success in tournaments small and big, winning the Frontier League's unofficial team crown, and placing first at three other tournaments. It all amounted to a rush at the end, the Cats claiming second, initially in the regional tournament, and a week later at state.
"That we finished second and tied for the highest finish ever in the boys program, you just couldn't ask for anything better," Sullivan said. "That's got to make the guys pretty proud."
Now that it's past, it's not hard to ask the question: what comes after Hoschouer and Andy Edwards?
The easy answer is singles success. Matt Edwards, Andy's younger brother, and Konetzni each qualified to state for the first time in 2007, Konetzni beating Edwards in the final match of the tournament to place himself seventh and drop Edwards to eighth.
Edwards, 24-10 this season, also lost to Konetzni after a grueling day of play at regionals, but played well throughout the season. He was third at De Soto's home invitational, and third again at the league meet, played in Ottawa. He finished second at a Bonner Springs round robin, and was first early in the season in a quadrangular tournament at Highland Park in Topeka.
Konetzni, meanwhile, finished 23-7 in his first varsity season. He began the season with plenty of experience in summer tournaments, so remained unfazed by the high school tennis experience from the first serve. He still improved throughout the season though, and was playing the best tennis of his career when he beat Baldwin's Nathan Dick in three sets to advance to the state tournament.
"They're both very dedicated," Sullivan said. "They've had a taste of it now, and they know what it takes. Now their goals are going to do better. A lot of the guys that finished ahead of them are leaving, so it'll be wide open."
Beyond that, Sullivan said the graduation of the top doubles team leaves plenty of opportunity. Of the team's most regular other doubles team, Chris Bender will graduate, but Matt L'Ecuyer will return as a senior. Four other Wildcats who saw at least some time on varsity through the season, while 10 underclassmen were on the team's initial roster.
Add in a potential tennis-playing transfer student like the team picked up in 2006, and a new crop of freshman, and Sullivan said the competition for the vacant spots should be lively.
"It's exciting," Sullivan said. "Dan and Andy had that spot for three straight years, so for guys coming back those are big shoes to fill. Hopefully the guys consider that in their preparation during the offseason. Hopefully they'll take it to heart."