Junction City tennis coach Matthew Micheel has been focused on getting his team to play with intensity this season. He feels playing with that sort of confidence helps with the overall play.
“High school boys, it’s amazing,” Micheel said. “When you play with motivation and you play like you care, you just do a lot better. We tried to find different ways to make that happen, just trying to be consistent on a daily basis.”
Senior Kody Westerhaus demonstrated some of that intensity Saturday morning when the team hosted an invitational. He finished the day with a 5-0 record, leading the Blue Jays to a second-place tie with Topeka.
“Today, I thought he brought a lot of intensity,” Micheel said. “He didn’t have a lot of crazy-long rallies; he’s been able to work on a lot of stuff today that maybe he’s not been able to do in some matches earlier this season because he’s been more on defense or in grind-it-out games.”
Aaron Reutzel finished 4-1 on the day, finishing in second place in the No. 2 singles bracket.
Salina South High School was unable to send a No. 1 singles player to the invitational, so that opened a door for Junction City freshman Hayden Diestelkamp to slot in. It was an opportunity he wanted, and he held his own and finished in third place in his bracket.
“He ended up getting third on the day out of six, which is awesome,” Micheel said. “He went 2-3, but he won the right matches and ended up in third place. It was a really good day for him to go swing and play; a lot to build off of.”
With Nolan Rothfuss battling an illness and unable to compete, Calen Boller was called on to fill that void. He paired with Mason Richards in the No. 1 doubles bracket, and Micheel feels the team didn’t miss a beat with Boller in the lineup. The duo picked up one win in its bracket.
“He’s been doing a good job,” Micheel said. “I’m not seeing any difference with Boller in there than what we had before. Nolan Rothfuss is sick, but Boller stepped up and is playing really well. Again, when they play with intensity, they play a lot better.”
The doubles pair of Erik Mitchell and Albert Caba in the No. 2 doubles bracket picked up one win as well.
With each team playing a total of five matches, it was a long afternoon for all. But Micheel believes this will be a good learning experience for the team as players continue to move forward this season.
“We’re still trying to figure out how to play a whole-day event; to stay up through the entire day, to play with confidence and to play within the system we teach,” Micheel said. “We’re just trying to do that right now, so hopefully the matches will get better, but we’ll see.”
Final team results from Saturday morning’s invitational included:
• Manhattan: 16
• Junction City: 11
• Topeka: 11
• Lawrence Free State: 9
• Salina South: 5
• Abilene: 3