After setting a Circle High School record for single season match wins, the T-Birds finished their season with a sixth-place finish at the 4A state tennis tournament in Pratt on Saturday.
Circle finished with a team score of 20, just one point behind fifth-place Parsons. The T-Birds were led by junior Carson Mosier who was the runner-up in the No. 1 singles bracket. In the No. 1 doubles bracket, sophomores Drew Middleton and Noah Allison placed tenth.
Prior to this season, the T-Birds single season match win record was 35. This year’s team nearly doubled that number with 66 wins. Circle’s first-year head coach Ray Strunk says he has seen the T-Birds confidence skyrocket over the course of the season.
“The biggest area of improvement I’ve seen with the boys has been with their confidence — especially with my doubles team,” Strunk said.
“They were kind of rushed into varsity last year and struggled so they came into this season with low expectations. Early on they dropped matches they could’ve won simply because they weren’t confident enough to take control of the match. By the end of the season they were coming into each match planning to win and they made it happen.”
Carson Mosier came into the state tournament with a record of 23-2 and knew he was capable of making a run at state.
“I try not to put too many expectations on myself, because I didn’t want to have that pressure. I knew going in, if I played well I had a chance,” Mosier said.
“Obviously it hurts a little bit to come up short, but overall I couldn’t be happier with finishing second and just everything we accomplished this year”
After losing to Drew Majors of Trinity Academy in the first match of the year, Mosier bounced back and won his next 20 matches.
“He has been so coachable and willing to make mid-match adjustments to beat really good players,” Strunk said.
After a first-round Bye, Mosier dominated his first round match with Carlos Collins of Parsons, winning 6-0, 6-0. In the next round, Mosier took the first set 6-4, and then won the second set 6-0. Mosier met Evan Acuff of Bishop Miege in the semifinal match and won 6-3, 6-4. In the 4A state championship match, Mosier fell to Topeka Hayden’s Sean Sandstorm in two sets by scores of 6-2 and 6-1.
The future looks bright for the Thunderbirds, who will return their entire team next year. Mosier explained that the team had a different attitude this season and the Thunderbirds are hoping to carry that over to next season.
“It was kind of a new environment. [Ray Strunk] came in and did a really good job coaching. All of a sudden we had a really determined group of guys,” Mosier said.
“We have a very young team. Two freshmen played in our number two varsity doubles spot after having never played competitive tennis. Everyone is coming back next year and we’ll continue to improve big-time,” Strunk added.