In the tournament, there were many different brackets in which teams from many different states including Missouri, California, Utah, and Oregon competed. Each player in singles was guaranteed at least three matches. For each bracket, if a player won their first game, they would stay in the top gold bracket. If they lost their first game, the player would drop down to the red bracket, and if they lost that game, he or she would drop down to the white bracket. If a player won their first match and lost their second, he or she would drop down to the second highest, blue bracket.
SLUH top seed senior Matt Hayes played in the No. 1 bracket, where he fought against the best high school racquetball players in the nation. After a bye in the first round, Hayes beat Will Smith, from Southridge, Ore., 15-0, 15-4. He then beat Cole Hartman of Wayzata High School in Minnesota with a series of tough matches winning 15-2, 14-15, 11-3.
Unfortunately, in his next match, Hayes faced the eventual champion, Antonio Rojas from Langston Hughes Academy—California, who, with near perfect down the line passes and pinches, beat Hayes 15-2, 15-2.
Hayes however, had a second chance to shine when he and junior Nick Schulze played in the No. 1 doubles bracket, making it all the way to the finals. The team won its first match 15-1, 15-3, leading them to play a tough match that would take them to the tiebreaker. As a team, Schulze and Hayes controlled the front of the court and ended up coming back from losing the first match to win 8-15, 15-14, 11-5.
“I was used to high pressure situations because of State, so I felt comfortable during the tiebreaker during the round of 16,” said Hayes.
After winning their next match 15-8, 15-12, Hayes and Schulze played against Eric Lou and Vedant Chauhan of Dougherty Valley in California, trying their best to control the court and hit nice ceiling shots, but their shots came off the back wall and their opponents punished them. The SLUH team was able to hit a few smart passes and wide angle shots to get a few points, but in the end, they lost 15-9 in the first round and 15-10 in the second.
“Well, I got carried pretty hard by Hayes,” said Schulze. “I just tried to not mess up, and he basically put all the shots away. He played really well in the front of the court.”
The No. 2 seed from SLUH, senior Joe Miner, played outstanding in the No.2 Gold Bracket finishing in second place. Seeded No. 4 in his bracket, Miner had a bye in the 32nds round. In the 16s, he beat Will Post from Beaverton, Ore. 15-10, 15-11. He remained smart with his passes and took the win.
In the quarterfinals, Miner had another competitive match against Devin Leigh from Sunset High School, Ore. Miner played strong in both matches, winning 15-9, 15-13 to advance to the semifinals in the Gold Bracket.
Miner came out strong against Nathan Soltis from Wayzata High School in Minnesota, winning the first game 15-5. However, he struggled in the second game and battled to the end, ultimately falling 15-13 to force the tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Miner came back strong and played smart, percentage racquetball to win 11-2.
“I was not better than many of the kids I played, I just outsmarted them,” said Miner. “I was playing my best when I just slowed down and figured out how to beat my opponent rather than trying to kill the ball and hit cool shots.”
After a hard-fought match, Miner had qualified for the finals in the No. 2 Gold division and was set to face the bracket’s No. 3 seed: Rory Lampe from Sprague, Ore. The first game was long and competitive, and after going back and forth, Lampe pulled away to win 15-13. Miner had strong passes and pinches against Lampe, making him dive, but in the end, Lampe put shots away that were almost impossible for Miner to get to.
The second game was not quite as close and Miner fell 15-5 to finish second place in the bracket but not before earning SLUH many points. Lampe stepped up his game and completely dominated the court, making it difficult for Miner to return a lot, but Miner remained strong and kept rallies going when he could.
“In the championship, he was the better player and there was nothing I could do about it,” said Miner. “I got sloppy and he capitalized on it. I was honestly just pumped to be in the championship of that bracket, though. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I had been cast off at the start of the year and to be in that match just proved my skill to myself and my coaches. It was surreal.”
Junior Andrew Porterfield kept up the streak of winning big for SLUH, this time winning first in the No. 3 Gold Bracket.
“In the past years, I was in the No. 6 bracket, so I faced much more difficult competition in Nationals than in the past, but nonetheless I think I played very well,” said Porterfield.
As the No. 1 seed in the bracket, Porterfield had a bye in the first round—the 16’s. In his first game in the quarterfinals, he faced off against Harrison Moore from Southridge, Ore. winning 15-6, 15-11. In the semifinals, Porterfield had a much smoother match against Sachin Pillai from Sunset High School in Oreg. He used his typical strong ceiling balls to dominate Pillai and win 15-6 and 15-7 to advance to the finals.
The championship match was much more of a battle for Porterfield. He faced off against the No. 3 seed William Sherman from Lafayette High School. Porterfield controlled his first game winning 15-9, but faltered in his second game, falling 15-6.
It all came down to one more match, a tiebreaker. Porterfield had strong serves in the first match that lead to Sherman setting Porterfield up to finish him with a low pass. After Sherman hit many low shots in the second game, giving him the lead and eventually winning the second match, Porterfield got his head back in the game, and used his strong pinch shot to kill the rally. The tiebreaker went back-and-forth but ultimately Porterfield prevailed, winning 11-9 to become the victor of the No. 3 Gold Bracket.
“I was exhausted but after I shook my opponent’s hand I was met with a wave of congratulations from the team and coaches,” said Porterfield.
Nick Schulze competed and was victorious in the No. 4 Gold bracket. As the No.1 seed in his bracket, Schulze had a bye in the round of 16. In his first match in the quarterfinals, Schulze absolutely dominated against Cameron Rensing from De Smet winning 15-1,15-6. Schulze never let down his momentum from the beginning and although faced with a slightly closer match in the semifinals against Alex Lancia from Parkway West, still cleanly won both games 15-9, 15-8. In the championship, Schulze continued to dominate and used good passes and kill shots to win 15-4, 15-6 over No. 2 seed Josh Bradshaw from Sprague, Oreg. and become the champion of the No. 4 Gold bracket.
“I had already seen a lot of the competition since I only played one guy from Oregon so that helped me out a lot,” said Schulze.
Schulze also stayed on the attack in all his games. He kept up the pressure and did not lose a single game in the single tournament.
“I started off strong each game and kept up the pressure,” said Schulze. “That helped me a lot to stick to my game and play smart racquetball.”
“I think Nick Schulze was incredible during Nationals,” said coach Stephen Deves. “He played doubles with Matt Hayes and that was a level of racquetball from Nick that I think has topped anything he’s done before.”
Senior Ryan Juergens took on the gold No. 5 bracket with another bye in the first round as the No. 1 seed. Juergens had incredible ball placement the entire tournament, giving him the advantage in many rallies that lead to him getting points. He triumphed in his first match against Joey Zarrick of De Smet, winning 15-1, 15-6 in the second. He went on to beat Will Neunreiter from Kirkwood 15-5, 15-2 in the second, taking him to the finals.
When Juergens got to the finals against Tanner Bach of Copper Hills High School, Utah, he was exhausted from his doubles match beforehand and got outplayed, losing 15-5 in the first match. He powered through however, with smart gameplay and passes, winning the second match 15-11. Unfortunately, he lost the tiebreaker 11-7 after a hard battle.
“We both played really well, but I got tired out towards the end, especially coming from the doubles match right before, so he was able to outlast me towards the end,” said Juergens.
Junior Tommy Phillips took on the No. 6 bracket, the bracket where the rest of the SLUH players played, as the No. 1 seed. Phillips played almost entirely SLUH players until the final match. He had a bye the first round, beat junior Matthew Mays 15-2, 15-5 in the second, and beat junior Kyle Zoellner 15-13, 15-6.
Phillips continued his dominating gameplay as he faced off with John Hilker in the next round. His passes remained strong as he won the first match 15-7 and completely dominated the second match 15-0.
Phillips had a bit more of a challenge in the quarterfinals, playing Eli Saadi. Phillips played strong in the first match, using low, powerful shots to win 15-9. Saadi came back the second game, with strong down the line passes and serves, but Phillips eventually overpowered him, winning 15-13. In the semifinals, Phillips battled with senior Zach Pavlisin. Phillips kept his strong serve rotation going as he won the first match 15-11, and the second 15-8.
“Throughout the tournament, I was able to rotate my serves incredibly well and put them exactly where I wanted them. Also, my forehand was probably the best it had been all season,” said Phillips. “I was just hitting shots with it so consistently that allowed me to win points and keep my opponents down.”
Phillips went into the finals match against Ian Bell of Sprague with a hurt shoulder from his doubles match with junior Jonathan Prichard. However, his outstanding forehand passes led him to a 15-8, 15-8 victory.
“I had just played a doubles match about 10 minutes before and my shoulder was aching. I came out strong and set the tone for the match,” said Phillips. “From there on, I was in control of the match. After I won, I was just so happy after the long road I had faced to get there. Mr. Deves congratulated and hugged me. My parents being there to see everything was fantastic and I was so glad to share my joy with them.”
“I really enjoyed watching Tommy Phillips plow through the No. 6 bracket,” said Deves. “I think that was a testament to the growth that he’s gone through. He had to play 11 matches through the course of Nationals and we were in the middle of his final match and he was talking about how he was exhausted and his shoulder hurt but it did not slow him down. To set your mind to something and say ‘You know what, I’m gonna do this one more time,’ and he really did that.”
SLUH’s varsity doubles team, seniors Liam John and Zach Pavlisin, took on the No. 3 Gold doubles bracket and ended up taking the whole thing, leading to a record of 17-0 the entire season.
“We worked so well as a team this year and I think that is why we had a 17-0 record this year,” said John. “When one of us was down, the other would pick the other up, and when we both were on, we were unstoppable, and that’s how Nationals ended—with us at the peaks of our game.”
The team had a bye first round, going on to win their first match against SLUH’s Max Johnson and Ryan Lieser, who was playing left-handed due to an injury in his right shoulder. Pavlisin and John dominated the court, winning 15-4, 15-1.
In the the next round, the team played against Lindbergh’s Nathan Ellmo and Herman Lueking, using smart wide angle shots to win 15-5, 15-3.
The team continued to roll through the competition as they crushed Magnum Vineck and Ethan Pulley from Sprague in Oreg. 15-1, 15-2.
In the semifinals, the team started to face some hard competition as they faced off against SLUH seniors Collin Gund and Joe Miner, winning 15-10, 15-7.
“Doubles was pretty easy until the semifinals,” said Pavlisin. “Liam and I didn’t really have any tough competition until we played Joe and Collin and then the Sprague kids in the finals.”
In the finals, the team had a rough start against Sprague’s Josh Bradshaw and Joe Swartz.
“The Sprague guys killed everything in our first game against them and didn’t really give us a chance to get good shots,” said Pavlisin.
The team lost the first match 15-7, but bounced back their second match, winning 15-6 with the help of strong communication, low passes, and serves to the backhand. SLUH took Sprague to the tiebreaker and ended up winning the whole bracket 11-3.
“In the second and third game, I think we did a better job of not setting them up and letting them beat themselves with skips,” said Pavlisin. “We also served a lot better and got a lot of points off that.”
SLUH completely dominated the brackets of Nationals, not just winning the gold brackets, but also winning the multiple consolation bracket. Sophomore Nick Petersen came out as champion in blue No. 6 bracket and freshman Jared Thornberry won the red No. 6 bracket.
“It’s really fun to win and obviously we’ve had a lot of success, but it’s just the, more so than even the winning, the energy of every single match, like it feels like every single match is do-or-die,” said Deves. “It feels like every single match is something personal. I’m very proud and impressed with our team. I love these guys, I really love this team and this sport, and we’re so lucky we get to do this.”