Marquette will have its No. 1 singles player in Simon Kauppila and both doubles teams playing in the Class 2 Sectional 2 tournament.
Add in the Mustangs winning their fourth consecutive doubles championship, giving Marquette a week of tennis to remember.
In Class 2 District 3 singles play, Kauppila, a senior, defeated Summit’s Arnav Purshottam 6-2, 6-0.
Both of Marquette’s doubles teams played for the district doubles title. Juniors Ethan Hinni and Adnan Patton defeated sophomore Robert Zhang and freshman Onur Taysi 6-3, 6-4.
All advance to the individual sectionals that will be held Tuesday (May 14) at Parkway South.
“We have never had our doubles teams play against each other and have a singles player play for the championship,” Marquette coach Alex Nelle said. “I couldn’t really ask for anything more from the players as we were involved in three of the four spots that are moving onto individual sectionals. We were almost able to take all four spots, as Kevin Zhou gave a tremendous effort in the semifinals against Arnav and pushed him to his limit in that match.”
Kauppila’s record this year is 29-5 with the win. In doing so, he became the all-time leader in wins for Marquette. His older brother, Jacob, held the record.
Nelle said the singles final match was a good one.
“Arnav is a very talented freshman who will have a great career and I think his match against Simon will benefit him in the long run,” Nelle said. “Simon played really well in that match, as he knew a win in that match, would break his brother’s record for most wins in a career by a Rockwood (school district) tennis player.”
Kauppila will be playing Ladue’s Jeremy Ouyang in the sectional.
“(That) will be an outstanding match to watch,” Nelle said. “Both players could easily finish in the top 8 in the state tournament so it will be a shame that one will be eliminated.”
Last year, Marquette had two of its doubles teams playing against each in the district final, too.
“I was really pleased with how both teams played throughout the tournament as both doubles teams had to overcome tough matches in the semifinals,” Nelle said. “Ethan and Adnan had to defeat Lafayette’s No. 1 doubles team in the semifinals, while Robbie and Onur had to defeat Parkway West’s No. 1 doubles team. Both of our teams were up to the challenge and maintained their composure throughout the matches.
“When they played each other in the finals, it was a competitive match, but also a friendly match. Each team played hard and wanted to win, so it was nice to just sit back and watch, while not having to worry about coaching anything.”
Hinni and Adnan Patton will be playing Chaminade’s Grant Bowman and Cade Cunnane in their match. Zhang and Taysi will be playing CBC’s Clayton Maack and David Abilez.
In the team district played at Parkway South, Marquette defeated Summit 5-0 to claim the championship.
“We had a very successful regular season and almost accomplished all of our goals for the season,” Nelle said. “The one goal we didn’t accomplish, winning conference, we are using that as motivation to hopefully play better in the postseason and in the future.”
Marquette ended the regular season with a 15-2 record. The Mustangs also won the Holt Tournament and the Eureka Doubles tournament.
The team was ready for the postseason.
“Going into districts, we had some very high expectations, as we had earned the No. 1 seed in the district from what we did in the regular season,” Nelle said. “We wanted to make sure we played to that level and didn’t take anyone for granted in the district. I think that attitude helped us to win both matches by a score of 5-0.”
The top seed didn’t hinder his Mustangs, Nelle said.
“I don’t think the boys really felt pressure by being the No. 1 seed, as we set the goal early in the season that we wanted to go into districts with the No. 1 seed,” Nelle said. “When we achieved that goal, I think it gave the boys confidence that they could win the title.”
In the district semifinal, Marquette defeated Parkway West 5-0.
“The match against Parkway West was a challenging match in that we had to play indoors, which we rarely do, and had a few kids who played right after taking a very long advanced placement test,” Nelle said. “It took a few of the guys a little longer to start playing to their normal level that day, but we were fortunate that they overcame the situation and propelled us to a 5-0 win.”
That win set up a match against Summit.
“We haven’t played Rockwood Summit in a few years, so that factor brought some anxiety into the championship match,” Nelle said. “They had a tremendous season, so we knew that we had to play our best and not overlook them to win the title.
“We got off a fast start against Summit by taking all three doubles matches, so I think that set the tone for the match. After we finished doubles, it became a race to see who would finish the clinching match to win the title.”
Nelle liked how well his doubles teams performed.
“I was really pleased with how well all three doubles teams played during the match,” Nelle said. “That has been a weakness for us this year, but we are starting to fix some of our problems and play better in doubles. In the singles matches, only Robbie Zhang and Simon Kauppila were able to finish their match, as we had won five courts at that time to win the match.”
The championship was the fourth consecutive district win for Marquette.
“The boys were excited to win the title, as this was our fourth straight title, which ties a couple of Lafayette tennis teams that won four straight titles,” Nelle said. “Going into the season, we knew that we had a team capable of winning the title, so when we achieved that goal there was a sense of relief and satisfaction associated with it.”
More than what it means to the program, Nelle said, it what is says about his athletes.
“I hope the consistency of winning the district title every year shows to everyone how hard the players work year round to make this happen and they receive the recognition they deserve,” Nelle said. “As a coach, I am fortunate enough to coach some very talented players who are willing to put in the time and effort needed to be successful.”
In the sectional round, Marquette (17-2) meets CBC (9-7) at 9 a.m. Saturday at Bernard Middle School. The winner moves on to play the survivor of the St. Louis University High-Oakville match at 1 p.m.
“We have not played CBC for three years, but we know a few of their players from the last time we played them,” Nelle said. “Their top two players are two of the top players in the state, so it will be a very competitive match between us.
“If we can get by CBC, it will be a very long day of tennis as SLUH is a very talented team. We will need lots of energy to beat SLUH, as it could easily come down to the final court to decide that match.”
Marquette has not reached the Class 2 Final Four since 2016.
“In order for us to get back to the Final Four, we are going to have to play our best tennis of the season on Saturday,” Nelle said. “We will start the morning off with a very talented team in CBC and it will take a team effort to beat them. If we do beat them, then we will play what a lot of people believe to be the most talented team in St. Louis in the SLUH Junior Billikens. Ideally, we would prefer not to have to play such talented teams on the same day, but I’m confident that the boys will be up for the challenge.”