Greenback boys bring 'no quit' to the tennis courts with success this spring

Ruby Howell
Pratt Tribune
Pratt High School tennis player Rafe Donnenwerth reaches for a return during state tennis tournament action in May 2021.

The Pratt High School boys tennis team finished their busy postseason play last month at the state championship tournament. In post-season play, Greenback head Coach Tate Thompson first took his team to the Central Kansas League meet after winning three regular-season tournaments. Results for CKL were as follows: 1S Rafe Donnenwerth 4th, 2S Micah Tatro 2nd,1D Hogan and Keishaune Thompson 3rd, and 2D Michael Dishman and Nolan Gordon 3rd. The team also finished in 3rd behind two perennial tennis powerhouses, Smoky Valley and Hesston, and shocked many people with their performances. 

After CKL, the team headed to Regionals at Buhler, where the top six in each division would qualify for state. The boys played very well and qualified both singles players, Donnenwerth placed 4th, Tatro placed 5th, and the doubles team of Thompson and Thompson placed 5th. The team again placed 3rd at regionals and overall, qualified four out of six players for state. Coach Thompson said that the Greenbacks have not qualified that many kids in state tennis in over a decade.

“Without a season last year, we lost a season of experience which makes a difference,” Thompson said. “(Tatro) only played one season prior, and this is Keishaune Thompson’s first season ever, so he and Hogan Thompson used their family connection as brothers to get their communication down quickly and they are both athletic, so they just got to every ball with hustle. Donnenwerth is the lone tennis player who plays a little more frequently year-round, but they all had an excellent season. It is hard to qualify in singles and we had two. The doubles team kept surprising teams all year long because they’re wrestlers and they don’t quit until it is truly over, so for two singles players and one doubles team to qualify is a big deal.”

Thompson said that day one of the state tournament began with a good start, with Tatro and the Thompsons winning in straight sets in the first round. Donnenwerth lost a heartbreaker in a 3rd set super tiebreaker (all exact scores are on the Greenback Athletics Facebook page). In the second round, Tatro and the Thompsons lost. In round three, Donnenwerth had a chance to advance but ended his season in another tiebreaker. Tatro moved on to the blood round with another win and the Thompsons lost their final match to Winfield. Unfortunately, Tatro was not able to win the match to guarantee a placing, but he did go 2-2 for the tournament.

“This was a season to remember for Pratt,” Thompson said. “The boys did something that hadn’t been done in a long time with a lot of doubters thinking that we would just fall flat. They did much more than that and I am proud of each one of them for showing what can be done when you put your mind to it and go out there, compete hard and have fun! To give insight to how tough our regional was, the top two teams from regional were 2nd and 3rd in the state and we placed third in that regionals. Not too shabby, and I am a very proud coach and dad.”

Be on the lookout for PHS boys tennis to rise to new heights next spring with many returning players bringing experience back to the team.