Singles crowns help Lincoln Pius X clinch Class B team tennis championship

LINCOLN — The team race couldn’t have been closer heading into the Class B state tennis meet’s final round Friday afternoon.

Lincoln Pius X and Elkhorn South — the past two team champions — were tied for first place. Pius had both its singles players in the finals and its doubles teams in the third-place matches. Elkhorn South had its doubles teams in the finals and singles players in third-place matches.

Pius sophomore Mason Warner wasn’t worrying about that. He knew he’d have his hands full facing Elkhorn freshman Zach Kuo in the No. 1 singles final.

“I just tried to stay relaxed and not let the nerves get the best of me,” Warner said.

He succeeded, using breaks of serve at the end of both sets to earn a 7-5, 6-4 win over Kuo.

Warner’s win, coupled with teammate Will Ulrich’s win at 2 singles, carried the Thunderbolts to the team title at Woods Tennis Center. Pius finished with 48.5 points, while Elkhorn South, which went 1-1 in the finals, was next with 44. Elkhorn placed third with 39.25.

In the Warner-Kuo match, the first set featured just two breaks of serve before the 12th game when Warner earned a break and the one-set lead. He led 5-2 in the second set before Kuo pulled within 5-4. But right after Kuo broke Warner’s serve, Warner responded with a break in the set’s 10th game to complete the win.

Warner’s only losses this season were to Class A competition. Kuo finished his season 26-4, with three losses to Warner and the other to Class A state champ Ethan Neil of Papillion-La Vista.

“I think this match was a little tougher,” Warner said. “He was hitting the ball well.”

While Pius swept the singles titles, Elkhorn South’s senior triplets sought a sweep in doubles.

Elkhorn South’s Seth Fink and Michael Day started finals play with a 6-1, 6-3 win over York’s Hunter and Hayden Royal in the 2 doubles final. Fink and Day finished their only season of playing doubles together 37-0.

“It was fun. We did better than I thought we’d ever do,” Fink said.

“We just stayed consistent,” Day said of their play at state. “We stayed together, no matter what the score was.”

Seth’s brothers, Ben and Jon, also were looking for their first state titles. They rolled through the opening set of the final 6-1, but York’s Bradyn Heiss and Luca Struffi regained their footing and earned a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 win.

“After that (first set), we decided we’d restart, bounce back,” Heiss said.

Heiss and Struffi led 5-2 in each of the last two sets before the Storm rallied. In the third set, Elkhorn South held its serve to make it 5-4, but Struffi, a foreign exchange student from Italy, used to his big serve to hold at love in closing out the win.

Team scores: Lincoln Pius X 48.5, Elkhorn South 44, Elkhorn 39.25, York 32, Elkhorn Mount Michael 27.25, Kearney Catholic 27, Waverly 19, Adams Central 18.25, Omaha Skutt 16, McCook 14.5, Gretna 12.75, Nebraska City 10.5, GICC 10.25, Hastings 10.25, Lincoln Christian 10, Alliance 8, Holdrege 8, North Platte 8, Gering 4, Omaha Gross 4, Beatrice 2, Lexington 2, Ralston 2, South Sioux City 2, Omaha Brownell Talbot/Concordia 0, Omaha Roncalli 0, Scottsbluff 0.

Individual place matches

No. 1 singles: 1, Mason Warner, LPX, def. Zach Kuo, Elk, 7-5, 6-4. 3, Isaac Gart, EMM, def. Smaran Marupudi, ES, 6-0, 6-3. 5, Joel Poland, KC, def. Nathan Bitzer, Wav, 9-7. 7, Zach Weber, Gret, def. Thomas Hunt, Ac, 8-0. No. 2 singles: 1, Will Ulrich, LPX, def. Wyatt Behlen, Elk, 6-0, 6-1. 3, Nolan Sughroue, AC, def. Miles Meier, ES, 6-0, 6-2. 5, Hayden Retzlaff, Wav, def. Evan Beran, Gret, 8-6. 7, Eli Fox, GICC, def. Landon Seibert, KC, 9-7. No. 1 doubles: 1, Bradyn Heiss-Luca Struffi, Y, def. Jon Fink-Ben Fink, ES, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4. 3, Joe Plachy-William Olson, LPX, def. Connor Conrad-Brandt Groskreutz, KC, 6-3, 6-3. 5, Jackson Habrock-Samuel Beard, Elk, def. Joe Hitzemann-Peyton Rosenfels, EMM, 8-3. 7, Langston Hoover-Logan Hoover, NC, def. Asher Kula-Justice Hanmer, OS, 8-3. No. 2 doubles: 1, Seth Fink-Michael Day, ES, def. Hayden Royal-Hunter Royal, Y, 6-1, 6-3. 3, William Trausch-Jason LaFleur, Elk, def. Samuel Rice-Thomas O’Donnell, LPX, 6-4, 6-4. 5, Logan Barenberg-Isaac Hinze, Mc, def. Adynn kusek-Brayden Schram, Hast, 8-5. 7, Logan Hock-Alex Payne, EMM, def. Gavin Lipovsky-Travis Niemeyer, AC, 8-4.

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