Platte County entered the season with nothing but unknowns. The Pirates have a chance to finish it by making a lot of history and adding to what’s already been an inarguable success.
On Monday, Platte County honored eight total seniors after their final home dual Monday, the program’s first-ever victory over Park Hill South. The Pirates came away with a tight 5-4 victory at Platte County High School that sends them into the postseason with confidence and a new path to the playoffs and the Missouri State Tennis Championships.
All four of Platte County’s seniors on the varsity roster — Daunte Alaiwat, Bradley Beeson, Emilio Escamilla and Tony Railsback — were involved in at least one of the wins against Park Hill South, a feat even more impressive considering none entered the season with prior experience at even the junior varsity level.
“I feel like we’re actually in a good spot right now because we’re all prepared to take the challenge,” Escamilla said.
“We’re definitely playing our best right now,” Alaiwat added.
Alaiwat gave Platte County the lead for good with an straight sets win at No. 3 singles that broke a 2-2 tie. Beeson dominated his first set at No. 4 singles and also appeared near a sweep but instead had to go three sets to make it 4-2.
Park Hill South’s win at No. 1 singles closed the gap to 4-3, but Railsback swept the No. 6 singles match to end the drama and give Platte County a huge win. The Pirates entered having lost two straight but were competitive just three days earlier in a tight loss to Park Hill, setting up the showdown with Park Hill South.
“These young (guys) probably don’t have quite the perspective of what the last few matches have meant to our tennis program,” Platte County coach Zach Keith said. “For the first seven to eight years of PC tennis, we didn’t even belong on the same courts as Park Hill or Park Hill South, so to see these men standing toe to toe with them on the court is really fun for us old coaches to watch.”
Indeed, trying to predict Platte County’s close to the regular season would’ve seemed optimistic in March.
Austin Vanek, a junior, was the lone player in the top 12 two years ago during the most recent season when he played toward the middle of the junior varsity lineup. He manned the No. 1 spot for most of the season before freshman Gavin Nichols supplanted him late in the season.
The key for Platte County all season involved fine-tuning the doubles lineup and consistent depth top to bottom. That showed against Park Hill South with Vanek and No. 5 Escamilla recording an 8-3 win at No. 2 doubles and Railsback and Beeson remaining unbeaten in No. 3 doubles matches with an 8-5 victory.
“It also brought out the competition in us,” Beeson said. “I think we’ve been surprised with how well we’ve done in the regular season, and we’re definitely excited for the postseason.”
After a win two days later against Lee’s Summit, Platte County finished the regular season at 8-4, and the Pirates own the No. 1 seed in Class 2 District 8 thanks to tight regular season victories over second-seeded Grain Valley and third-seeded Kearney. Platte County remains in Class 2 in a reformatted postseason format that now includes a third classification, meaning the Pirates no longer have to compete with the likes of Park Hill, Park Hill South, Staley, Liberty, Liberty North, etc. for singles and doubles state spots.
Platte County opens district play with a bye and will need two victories to reach the state tournament for the first time in program history.
In addition, Keith will be deciding on Platte County’s singles and doubles entries for the Class 2 District 8 individual tournament, scheduled for tomorrow in Platte City. The finalists in both brackets qualify directly for state, and the Pirates should be competitive for at least two if not three of the four available spots.
Platte County’s only prior individual state qualifier was the doubles team of Ethan Savage and Aaron Stout back in 2010 when the Pirates were still in Class 1.
“We like who we are playing in the postseason,” Railsback said. “I think every (match) we play right now is going to help us.”
Below is a recap of the rest of the final two weeks of the regular season.
Platte County 8, Winnetonka 1
The Pirates ran their overall winning streak against Winnetonka to four in a row on Thursday, April 22 in Kansas City, while completing their unbeaten Suburban Conference Blue Division championship.
Platte County swept the three doubles matches and took five of six in singles against Winnetonka, which had only six players on the roster. Vanek lost 10-8 at No. 1 singles in the dual’s most competitive match. The Pirates had already locked up at least a share of the conference title and finish 3-0 in Blue Division play with Raytown South, Smithville and Grandview without teams.
Savannah 5, Platte County 4
The Pirates stumbled in doubles and didn’t recover in a matchup Monday, April 26 at Platte County High Schoo.
Savannah entered undefeated and left with perhaps the most impressive win over the season. Platte County took an early 1-0 lead with an 8-4 victory from Beeson and Railsback at No. 3 but trailed 2-1 heading into singles. The Pirates then split the final six matches with wins for Beeson (No. 4), Alaiwat (No. 3) and Railsback (No. 6).
For the first time on the season, Nichols played at No. 1 but lost in straight sets, as did Vanek in his first match at No. 2. Alaiwat and Railsback won in straight sets, while Beeson claimed a 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 victory in the dual’s most entertaining match. Railsback won his opening set 6-0 and appeared on the verge of a sweep before losing 7-5 in the second and coming back to win the tiebreaker 10-3.
Park Hill 5, Platte County 4
The Pirates lost a second straight dual but performed well Friday, April 30 in Kansas City in what Keith called perhaps the most competitive play top to bottom on the season.
Beeson and Railsback again pushed Platte County to an early lead with an 8-2 win at No. 3 doubles, but Park Hill led 2-1 going into singles. Alaiwat (No. 3), Escamilla (No. 5) and Railsback (No. 6) were the winners in a six-match split that again left the Pirates just win victory away from taking the dual.
“We definitely needed to play good against Park Hill because we weren’t expecting to lose to Savannah,” Alaiwat said.
Platte County’s busy schedule continued Saturday, May 1 with a trip to Kansas City for one of the deepest tournament’s in the area.
In a nine-team field, Platte County placed fifth with 27 points, 15 back of a clear top-four and just three in front of North Kansas City. The Pirates experienced their success in doubles with Railsback and Beeson recording 8-3 and 10-4 victories to reach the B bracket final before losing 10-0 to Liberty North’s Jediah Anderson and Brett Wolkey.
In addition to the runnerup showing, Platte County’s Vanek and Alaiwat teamed up in an intriguing potential postseason preview to reach the A doubles semifinal before back-to-back losses placed them fourth.
Platte County 7, Lee’s Summit 2
The Pirates followed the historic win over Park Hill South with a convincing victory over Lee’s Summit in the regular season finale Wednesday in Lee’s Summit.
Nichols became the first freshman in program history to win a dual match at No. 1 singles. Vanek (No. 2), Alaiwat (No. 3) and Beeson also took singles victories to close out the dominant win, while Railsback lost 9-7 at No. 6 for just his second dual loss of the season and first since March 26.
The key ended up being a sweep of doubles.
Vanek and Alaiwat played at No. 1 and won 8-5 as a newly formed duo, while Nichols and Escamilla paired at No. 2 and took an 8-3 decision. Railsback and Beeson then finished the regular season unbeaten in duals as the No. 3 doubles team with an 8-4 victory.