Hornets reach Class 1 District 15 team tournament finals with 5-1 Wednesday home win over Cameron

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — The tennis Hornets of Chillicothe (Mo.) HS earned their first appearance in a team district-tournament championship match in three years Wednesday (May 8, 2019) with a quick, efficient 5-1 home win over the Cameron Dragons.
By virtue of that victory, the Hornets advanced to the Class 1 District 15 Tournament title match, action which is due to take place at Trenton Thursday, starting at 4 p.m. The top-seeded Bulldogs, who blanked Excelsior Springs 5-0 in the other rain-reset semifinal Wednesday, will be a substantial favorite in that match, having bested Chillicothe 7-2 and 6-3 earlier this season.
Trenton eliminated the Hornets in the district semifinals each of the last two years, 12 months ago doing it en route to claiming the district title.
Chillicothe’s conquest of Cameron’s Dragons at the Daryl Danner Memorial Park Courts Wednesday took less than 90 minutes to complete.
The hosts set a quick tone with their No. 1 doubles entry of Tyler Maasdam and Noah Crowe. Senior Maasdam and junior Crowe quickly jumped in front of Dragons David Beasley and Nick Helmich by claiming the first four games and never took their foot off the accelerator. Playing “pro-8” set-scoring format (first team to win eight games or more with a lead of at least two games would take the single-set match), the Crowe/Maasdam tandem kept clicking off game wins until they had secured an 8-0 shutout victory. Unofficially, that improved the duo’s season record to 5-3.
At the same time, a closer No. 2 battle and a very tight No. 3 duel were unfolding. When they wrapped up with Chillicothe on top, the Hornets had a solid hold on the match and advancement to the district finals.
No. 2 position play saw Hornets Brendon Nelson and Colten Johnson, who – with Maasdam and Crowe – were a duo head coach Bob Long utilized the most together this season while trying no less than a dozen separate combinations, also capture the first three games on their way to fending off Tyler Anderson and Levi Chastain by an 8-4 count. That assured Chillicothe of a lead going to singles.
That triumph was a key one, since those same tandems had clashed in the teams’ Midland Empire Conference dual match in mid-April and the Chillicotheans had barely secured a 9-7 win. Wednesday’s win allowed Johnson/Nelson unofficially to square their doubles record for the year at 4-4.
With two doubles victories in the books and some of the best-of-3 singles matches getting going, the tight No. 3 doubles set offered Chillicothe – with MEC singles champion Maasdam representing a near-certain win in his solo match – the chance to seize a stranglehold on eventual success and Cameron an opportunity to cast some doubt on the eventual match outcome.
The action between the Hornets’ Seth Batye and Gavin Sampsel and Dragons’ Avery Dickerson and Caden Hanrahan went to its 14th game with the home-team combo clinging to a 7-6 lead. If Sampsel/Batye could get the next game, they’d win the set and match and give their team a 3-0 lead; if the Cameron players prevailed, it was back to square one with a tiebreaker a definite possibility.
In that pressure-packed situation, it was senior Batye and junior Sampsel – a late-season addition to the varsity lineup after Grahm Mayers was sidetracked by an injury – who came up with the shots needed to prevail. The Hornets pair captured the 14th game, giving them the set 8-6.
Although Helmich, with a 6-0, 6-2 triumph over Crowe in No. 2 singles, improved Cameron’s position slightly as singles results began being determined, it only delayed the looming overall result.
Taking on Chastain in the No. 4 singles position, Batye edged ahead in the opening set and then closed it out at 6-3. That seemed to take the starch out of the Cameron player and lift the Chillicothean as Batye blazed through the clinching set 6-1, pushing the Hornets’ lead to 4-1.
When Maasdam clipped Beasley in straight sets – 6-2, 6-0, it finished off Chillicothe’s win, although – at virtually the same moment, Long reports – Johnson was completing his own 6-2, 6-1 conquest of Dickerson at No. 5 that would have accomplished the same feat.
Under state rules, postseason team matches are terminated once one team has secured five set/match victories, so the team match score technically went in the books as a 5-1 margin.
However, in addition to Johnson’s unofficial singles triumph, Sampsel was well ahead of Henderson 7-5, 3-0 at No. 6. The No. 3 position clash had Cameron’s Anderson up on Nelson 6-4, 4-3 when action was halted.
The postseason win for Chillicothe boosted its overall 2019 record (including tournament dual matches) to 6-9 entering the district-title third go-around with Trenton.
Regardless of Thursday’s team outcome, all six DIstrict 15 schools will gather their players at Excelsior Springs Saturday for non-team district-tournament play. Each will have the chance to enter two players in singles style and two tandems in doubles (individual players can be entered in one or the other, but not both), meaning a maximum of 12 players or pairs in each competition.
Playing best-of-3 sets format, the two singles players and two duos who reach the district finals will qualify for non-team state-tournament-qualifying sectional matches against the representatives of the District 16 tournament early next week (usually scheduled for Monday). Each district’s champions will square off against the runnerup of the opposite district, with each winner advancing to the following week’s non-team state tournament.
Chillicothe’s Maasdam, unofficially 16-7 in singles this season after his Wednesday win, figures to be a high seed – likely No. 1 – in tomorrow’s singles and thus a strong candidate to extend his personal season to Monday and possibly beyond. With District 16’s ranks being exclusively MEC teams and Maasdam having earned the league’s singles tournament title without loss of a set April 24, he would figure as a favorite to win his sectional match and qualify for state, as long as he earns the chance by placing either first or second tomorrow.
The Chillicothe-Trenton team-play winner will earn a spot in the first (sectional) round of the team state tournament against the District 16 champ. Both first- and second (quarterfinal)-round team play will occur next weekend at a to-be-determined site. The survivor of those matches goes to the state semifinals and finals two weeks from yesterday.