It began in Junction City tennis player Kody Westerhaus’s sophomore year when coach Matthew Micheel felt his team needed a lift. Westerhaus delivered on Micheel’s request in a big way.
“We had a group of like six seniors who played the whole regionals,” Micheel said. “He came in at that time and gave us a big boost. He has a confidence about him and a competitiveness about him. I think that’s something our team needed at that time.”
Westerhaus challenged the other players that were higher on the ladder than him, and he gradually climbed that ladder himself. Beginning in junior varsity, then to lower varsity, then fast forward to his senior year. Westerhaus was the lone Blue Jay playing in the state tennis tournament this year in Olathe.
“It’s something that’s hard to do,” Micheel said. “Our region, our league makes it tough. But, it also prepares us. Our schedule prepares us for these times. Our goal is to get up here and win a match, but it is our first goal to get somebody here. The regional tournament Kody put together, he had to earn his way here. You have to really work at it, you have to put in time. You are going against a lot of guys who go year-round.”
Westerhaus drew a tough opponent in his first match of Friday morning. His opponent, Blake Eason from Shawnee Mission East High School, demonstrated a powerful offensive game with an effective forehand shot for the duration of the match as Westerhaus fell in straight sets 6-1, 6-0.
This sent Westerhaus to a do-or-die matchup to keep his state title hopes alive when he squared off with Amrith Samuel of Olathe North High School. In this side of the bracket, it was a one-set match with the first to win nine games moving on. Continuing his great defensive play, Westerhaus remained in long rallies with Samuel. The two were very evenly matched, however Samuel was able to outlast Westerhaus on the scoreboard and won 9-3.
Although his day ended shorter than he had hoped, Westerhaus represented Junction City in a proud way in Olathe. After watching Westerhaus for the final time as a high school tennis player, Micheel reflected on the obstacles the senior overcame, and the impact he had on the tennis program.
“We needed his class to give us the next boost, and I think that’s what he added the most was lighting a fire under the current guys we had,” he said. “And I think that’s probably one of the things I’ll remember for what he did for Junction City tennis.”