Circle's Noah Allison, Drew Middleton place fourth at 4A doubles state tennis tournament
TOPEKA, Kansas—If you go winless on state Saturday in tennis that’s never a bad thing. Especially if you went 2-0 on Friday.
For the Circle Thunderbirds’ doubles duo of Noah Allison and Drew Middleton, they rolled to the Class 4A doubles semifinals before finishing fourth by the end of Saturday.
Not bad for a pair who play tennis casually.
“Yeah, I don’t pick up a racquet until tennis starts,” senior Middleton said.
It didn’t show all tournament as Allison, who also does the same, the two were dominate in getting to the medal rounds.
“These two are just natural athletes,” Dan Rose said. “They feed off each other and it makes the other one better.”
The two love the game and they improve their play by finding learning moments in “pickleball,” a shorter version of tennis, usually played with a paddle, much like ping pong but in a bigger capacity.
“I think it just goes to show you enjoy playing together,” Middleton said.
For Middleton and Allison, becoming the first doubles partner in a long time and it’s thought to be the highest placing by a doubles pair in school history, it hasn’t hit them yet.
“Wow,” Allison said. “Hard to believe that we are the ones who did that.”
They were on the edge of making even more history as they took the first set in a semifinal that went against a former state champion in Michael Sandstrom. However, it wasn’t meant to be as Hayden won the next two sets, sending Circle into the third place match.
The pair started out the tournament like a buzz saw, shutting down Brock Hilger and Amos Harder of Buhler in straight sets and only allowing a single game. Then, came the eye-opening win. Circle’s only state qualifier beat the second-seeded Brecken Bertie and Ryan Stoner of Independence in three sets. Circle had dropped the opening set 6-4 but came back to take the next two sets 6-4 and 6-4 to advance to semifinals against Hayden
“We had to win that match,” Allison said. “Had we lost that one and we would have had to go the back side to get to the fifth place game and we came to be fifth or better.”
Better it is then.
The win over Independence set up the showdown with Hayden.
In what felt like a standing room only crowd, the Thunderbirds held their own with a traditional tennis power in Topeka Hayden.
Things started out strong in the semifinals with Middleton helping Circle jump out to an early first set lead on his service games. Eventually, Circle took the first set but Hayden’s net game appeared to be too much for the Thunderbirds.
Hayden’s Michael Sandstrom, who is no strangers to winning at state as he won the 2019 singles title, showed strong net presence for Hayden.
Hayden took the next two sets and set the Thunderbirds into the third place match
In all but their first win over the Buhler pair, Allison and Middleton played three set matches in their final three matches of the tournament. They won the match where they lost the first set but lost the two where they won the first set.
In the third place match Independence capitalized off errors and clawed back from losing the first set and eventually won the match. It wasn’t without dramatics as Circle fell behind 5-0 in the third set but won two straight games to put the fear into the Bulldogs before they finally closed it out.
After not having a season last year, the seniors are just happy to have a finale for their high school careers after finishing 10th two seasons ago and having the season cancelled due to COVID-19 last year.
“We wanted to improve from our sophomore year and we did,” Allison said.
“Yeah, it just goes to show we really enjoy playing with each other,” Middleton said.