Middleton, Allison finish regional runner-up in doubles

Lionel Tipton
Drew Middleton (left) and Noah Allison (right) qualified for the Class 4A state tennis tournament on Saturday, May 8 at the El Dorado tennis regional in El Dorado, Kansas.

EL DORADO, Kansas—After the cancellation of the boys tennis season a year ago because of COVID-19, in the eyes of Circle’s current coach, Carson Mosier – who graduated last year – is the Class 4A champion, of sorts.

“He’s the reigning public school 4A champion,” T-Birds first-year coach Dan Rose said of Mosier, who lost in the 2019 final to Topeka Hayden’s Sean Sandstrom. 

Mosier, now playing tennis at Emporia State, was back Saturday cheering on the Thunderbirds in their 4A regional at North Main Park in El Dorado. He’s listed as the current 4A runner-up until a champion is crowned this year.

“That was really the hard thing about last season,” Rose said. “Had we not had anybody in the running (for a state championship) … if COVID had happened four years ago, we didn’t have as much talent (so) it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. But this past year especially (was tough).”

And, the Circle doubles team who were regional runners-up as sophomores punched their ticket to this year’s state tournament with a runner-up finish this year. 

Drew Middleton and Noah Allison, now seniors, made it all the way to the final before stumbling against Wellington’s Kade Adams and Carson Rademacher in three sets.

Middleton and Allison were the only T-Birds to make the field for state, which will be played next Friday and Saturday in Topeka.

Middleton, a sharpshooting guard in basketball who will play that sport next season at Southwestern College, said that despite the two-year gap, the memory of going to state and finishing 10th is still quite fresh.

“We’re hoping to do better,” he said. “We definitely have the potential. We can play with anyone in state. Our goal is probably to finish (in the) top five this year.”

Allison concurred with his partner and said both are looking forward to improving their finish at state.

“This week in practice, we’re going to give 100-percent intensity and do all we can to get better,” he said. 

Rose is Allison’s third coach in high school, and he said each have strengths that have benefited him.

“(Andrew) Stauffer was very nitpicky and instructive in teaching you to play tennis,” Allison said. “Ray Strunk was a great coach to push us to be more athletic and definitely have a stronger mental game. Coach Rose, he’s a great motivator.”

Seeing Mosier and other former T-Bird players was inspiring, Allison said.

“It was great, you know I haven’t seen them in awhile,” he said. “It was great to have support, and Harrison Metzger, who played here for us. It was great to have them supporting us.”

All in all, Rose said he was pleased with the showing and for Middleton and Allison returning to state.

He said he thought the pair’s runner-up finish might provide some added incentive once they began state tournament play.

“I think we had just a few little minor inconsistencies,” he said. “I think it’s going to give us something to work for in practice, definitely some things that we can focus on to get better and kind of dissect things.”

Comparisons between this year and two years ago are almost unfair because of physical changes in the players during that time, with many going through growth spurts.

“You miss out on that whole year of development,” Rose said. “It’s basically just like a new season. You don’t have anything to build off of what happened last year, but you can go back and see how some of these teams have played up at state have done in the other tournaments.

“Essentially, a lot of these kids from some of these schools I don’t even know. Usually, I know which kids are who, but this year it’s like, ‘Who’s that kid? I’ve never seen that face.’”

Rose took over the boys tennis program this year after previously serving as an assistant coach for six years during the tenure of Bill Hecker. It was a long and winding road to get there, he said.

“When Bill retired, they offered me the job, and I said I didn’t feel comfortable taking it yet,” Rose said. 

That led to Stauffer – currently Circle soccer coach – taking the reins.

“He was there for two years, then took over the soccer program,” said Rose, an industrial technology teacher at the school. “They asked me again (then), and I said no, so then they found Ray Strunk, and he did that for two years. 

“When (Strunk) left, (athletic director John) Coslett came up to me and said, ‘It’s time for you to step up. You’re in the building every day with the kids. I can come down and talk to you and don’t have to hunt you down.”

It helps to have some returning talent on the roster, Rose said.

“The (Circle) teachers have told me numerous times, ‘Wow, you’re doing great with the kids,’ (but) I’ve got good talent. It’s easy to make a good cake when you’ve got good ingredients.

“I’ve really researched and done a lot of stuff that will help them to get better. That way, they have some skills when they go on the court.”

Rose said he counts among his greatest strengths is the handling of the mental game.

“You can get in the kid’s head, you can tell what’s wrong with the kid, stuff like that,” he said. “I feel like that’s probably my forte as a coach. I can tell what the kids are feeling.

“I think that’s paramount in coaching. You’ve got to keep the kids positive, especially in this game. It’s such a mental game.”

The lack of a middle school program has affected Circle’s talent, Rose said. 

“Everyone in our league has a middle school program except for us,” he said. “Stauffer (who teaches math at Circle Middle School) and I tried to get that to go, but then it kind of fell by the wayside. I may push that a little if we have a few little runs the next few years.” 

The recent success of the girls program has affected the perception of the boys program, Rose said.

“We’re getting good girls, and so they said, ‘You’re getting good talent already when you get to high school,’” he said. “Yeah, we do, on the girls side. The boys side, we need time to develop. We’re going out on the court as freshmen, and we’re playing teams that already have two years on us.

“When we’re learning to hit the ball, they’re learning to place the ball.

“Tennis is so situational. You can’t learn until you’ve been there.”

4A El Dorado Regional

Wellington 21, Winfield 11, El Dorado 11, Circle 8, Iola 6, Augusta 0.

Singles

1. Cornejo, Wellington, def. Lowe, Winfield, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3; 3. Barbarossa, Iola, def. Greene, El Dorado, 6-7 (7-2), 6-4, 6-3; 5. McKibban, El Dorado, def. Worley, Wellington, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).

Doubles

1. Adams-Rademacher, Wellington def. Allison-Middleton, Circle 6-4, 1-6, 6-2; 3. Norris-Wright, Wellington def. Farley-Foukes, El Dorado, 6-3, 6-3; 5. Everett-Norton, Winfield def. Morris-Davis, Winfield, 6-0, 6-1.