State awaits De Soto’s quad of qualifiers
Matt Edwards whooped loud and tossed his racket into the net.
For Andrew Konetzni it also came with a shout, but with a sigh of relief mixed in.
Andy Edwards and Dan Hoschouer met the news with the same calm, cool confidence they'd played with all day.
The outward reactions were different, but for each of the four Wildcats that sewed up bids to the weekend's Class 4A state tennis tournament there was a mix of excitement, pride and relief. De Soto held its seeds at Friday's regional tennis tournament in Prairie Village, claiming second with the doubles team of Hoschouer and Andy Edwards, and third and fourth with the singles entries of Konetzni and Matt Edwards. The end result was a bunch worn of out Wildcats and the program's largest state contingent in more than a decade.
"We did exactly what we went in wanting to do," Wildcat coach Michael Sullivan said. "Of course you want to get four entries in, but we knew we had a good chance to get three. It wasn't easy for everyone, but it went just as expected."
It came easy only for seniors Andy Edwards and Hoschouer. They lived up to their No. 2 seed and breezed through their bracket without even a hiccup, winning their first two matches by the score of 6-0, 6-0, and their third 6-2, 6-0.
"The second and third matches were probably the best we've ever played," Hoschouer said.
They lost for the second time in as many weeks to a pair from Topeka Hayden, but by then their second consecutive trip to state was assured.
"We're pretty excited," Hoschouer said. "We pretty much expected to go to state. We're peaking at the right time and we want to get to the semis, if not farther."
Edwards and Hoschouer paved their way to state on one court, but Konetzni and Matt Edwards sweated it out on others at the same time.
Konetzni beat his quarterfinal round opponent, Nathan Dick of Baldwin, in two sets just two weeks ago. Dick brought a little something extra for his final regional tournament, however, jumping up on Konetzni to win the first set 6-4 and leaving the De Soto freshman frustrated and cursing.
Konetzni regained his composure in the second, rebounding with a 6-4 win, then flourished in the third. He hammered point after point across the net on the court, and his voice, hardly muted by the thick, humid air, bounded across the courts as he emphasized every winning stroke with a "Let's go!"
He took control of the match and secured his trip to state with authority, 6-0.
"I just got way too angry. I was waiting for him to mess up and I wasn't focused," Konetzni said of the slow start. "I wasn't playing aggressively, but I started and then a win's a win."
Matt Edwards started exactly the opposite. Though he was also playing a Baldwin senior he'd easily beaten earlier in the year, Josh Beaulieu, Edwards cruised to a 6-0 opening set victory.
That advantage quickly disappeared as Beaulieu took the second set 7-5, and had a 3-1 lead in the third set.
Edwards hammered an ace to make it 3-2, however, and broke Beaulieu's serve to tie it at 3-3. He took his first lead of the final set with another ace to seal a game, going up 4-3.
Edwards and Beaulieu traded games until they squared off in a tiebreaker. Again, Beaulieu got a fast start, going up 1-0 and 5-3. He hit a ball long to make it 5-4 and Edwards scored again with a perfectly timed lob shot to tie it at 5-5.
Still, Edwards faced match-point after hitting the next ball out. He put together one final run, watching a potential-Beaulieu winner sail just over the far line to take a 7-6 lead, then pushing a forehand just past the outstretched racket of the Baldwin senior. Edwards shouted loud and ran to the net, quickly ditching his racket into the hard court as he celebrated his trip to state.
"I started playing a lot better and keeping more balls in," Edwards said. "I was confident the whole time. We were pretty even, but I knew I could win the whole time so I kept hitting balls in to keep him moving.
"At the end of the third set I was getting tired, but in the tiebreak I felt really good. I had some energy from somewhere."
Worn out on the humid day, neither had much success in their semi-final rounds, each losing two-set matches without winning a game. Konetzni then bested Edwards as both struggled with cramps and fatigue, 6-4, 6-4.
"Matt had to adjust, battle back," Sullivan said. "Third set he was down, and the tiebreaker he was down, and he had to come back. I was really proud with how both those guys (Edwards and Konetzni) battled back."
The doubles team, playing together now for the fourth year, stood alone in the ease of the trip to the finals, and stand alone again when considering what it will take for the state tournament to be considered a success.
Andy Edwards and Hoschouer were state first-timers a year ago, not sure what to expect, but they faired well, finishing sixth in the 16-team tournament.
Sixth isn't an option any longer, however. The pair have won 90 matches in their four years together and are 27-4 this season.
Simply put, they expect to make a run, and anything less than a trip to the state semi-finals would be a disappointment.
"We want to make it to the semis," Hoschouer said. "We don't want fourth -- we want third or better. We don't want to lose the last match."
Matt Edwards and Konetzni didn't set such lofty goals, though neither plan on just being happy with a fabulous, all-expense paid trip to Topeka Hayden's tennis complex either.
De Soto last qualified three to state in 1996, a year the team went on to finish fifth. The Cats have been ranked higher than that for most of the season, however, and they have every intention of improving that mark on Class 4A's biggest stage.
"It's pretty exciting, but you have to look at it as another tournament and not put too much pressure on it," Konetzni said.
"It's just another tournament," Matt Edwards added. "I just want to get out there, play and go as far as I can."
The meet begins Friday at 12:30 p.m. at the Topeka Hayden tennis courts. It resumes Saturday morning at 9 a.m.