OMAHA – The greatest season in boys tennis history belongs to Lincoln East.
Unforgettable and unbeatable, the Spartans tied a bow on a second straight Class A state team championship Friday at Koch Family Tennis Center by winning all four divisions. East did so without dropping a match all season, becoming the first team to accomplish the feat. They won them all with three freshmen and two sophomores in the lineup.
“I don’t know that we can really appreciate it right away, because the chances of not having a hiccup as a team is so remote,” East coach Chris Stock said. “I just appreciate the fact that the guys never really talked about stuff in terms of their records … they never really talked about even winning state. They just came to practice and meets and they just played.”
That attitude and focused carried into state, Stock added.
2022 State Boys Tennis Champions – Lincoln East Spartans
GO SPARTANS!!!! pic.twitter.com/CHMYrkE55j
— EastHighSpartans (@EastSpartans) October 14, 2022
Hunter Nelson, a top-five regional player in the Missouri Valley, won at No. 1 singles to cap a 42-0 season. Fellow freshman Samarth Sajeesh won at No. 2 singles and also finished 42-0.
Senior Kirby Le, who was a state runner-up at No. 1 singles last year, partnered with sophomore Caden Haar to dominate the doubles competition. The pair (46-0) defeated third-seeded Nahum Barber and Ruyter Jamison of Lincoln Southeast 6-3, 6-1 in the No. 1 doubles final.
Not to be outdone, the team of Joseph Bucknell (sophomore) and Kayden Le (freshman) finished 44-0 with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Lincoln Southwest’s Chase Benson and Cooper Malone at No. 2 doubles.
Do the math, and that’s 174 wins and zero defeats for East varsity tennis in 2022.
In Omaha, the Spartans rolled up 60 points to win their 11th state title. Kearney (37.125) was second and Lincoln Southwest (37) was third. Lincoln Southeast was fourth giving the Heartland Athletic Conference four teams at the top.
Nelson, whose father Sam was part of four state championship teams at East in the 1990s, defeated second-seeded Asher Saulsbury of Kearney 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in the championship match at No. 1 singles. Nelson battled back after dropping his first game of the year.
“He handled it really, really well and adjusted and made the comeback,” Stock said.
Meanwhile, Nelson became East’s first No. 1 singles state champion since Chad VanHorn in 1993.
Four of East’s six players were not in a state tournament setting last year. But that didn’t stop the Spartans from making a historic run. Kirby Le, the lone senior, was a player the Spartans could lean on for leadership. He was the team’s No. 1 singles player for two seasons before Nelson took over the top spot. Le kept his head up and embraced a new role.
“He has so much experience that he used that not only in his double pairings but also as a calming force for the team,” Stock said. “I had no doubt that he’d be an amazing doubles player.”
East won eight straight state titles in the 1990s, but none of those Spartan teams accomplished the unbeaten feat of this year’s crew.
— NSAA (@nsaahome) October 14, 2022
McCook takes Class B
McCook won its first Class B state championship Friday at Woods Tennis Center in Lincoln. The Bison racked up 50 points to pull away from Elkhorn North (35.75) and Grand Island Central Catholic (31.5).
The Bison rode the strength of their doubles teams. Evan Humphrey and Lincoln Michaelis, seeded fourth, knocked off the Nos. 1 and 3 seeds to capture the No. 2 doubles crown. Payton Dellevoet and Joel Miller won at No. 2 doubles.
“The team peaked at the right time,” McCook coach Matt Wiemers said. “I was very pleased with the kids efforts on the courts all season long. We definitely came together as a team the last couple weeks of the season, which made us a much stronger team heading into state. ”
Crete junior Aidan McDowell, the top seed at No. 1 singles, defeated McCook’s Nathaniel Miller 6-2, 6-2 to give the Cardinals their first state champion in school history. McDowell dropped just two matches all season.
South Sioux City junior Christian Perez prevailed at No. 2 singles.