PITTSBURG — The Purple Dragons' boys' tennis team is sending two of its members, Logan Benham and Devin McAfee, to the state tournament this upcoming weekend on the campus of Maize South High School in Wichita.
Benham won the regional at Emporia this past weekend Pittsburg High School, while McAfee finished third.
By qualifying, Benham became the first tennis player in school history to qualify for the state tournament all four years. His record on the season is 27-5, and he could be seeded as high as second overall in the Kansas Class 5A bracket. He has “shattered” – borrowing a word from his coach – the school record for wins during his time at PHS.
“It feels pretty good to qualify,” Benham said. “I was pretty shocked to know that no one else has qualified all four years. I feel like all the hard work has paid off.”
Pittsburg head coach John Seal is pleased to have two players make it to this level, and his expectations are high for both players.
“I want [Benham] to win the state singles title,” Coach Seal asserted before adding about McAfee, “And I want [Devin] to finish in the top ten [out of 24 qualifiers].”
His optimistic outlook for both players is due to the level of competition each player was subjected to all season.
“We go to Winfield; we go to Arkansas City; we go to Topeka; we go to Salina, which is loaded,” Seal said. “We are going to increase that next year and try and get into Springfield (Missouri), and we are going to host our own [tournament]. We are not going to play anyone but high-level competition. We want to play the best programs in the state.”
Playing the best makes his players battle ready, and, in a way, it relieves some of the tension the state tournament can add to a player because they have already been in those high-pressure situations numerous times.
“We’ve played a lot of good competition, a lot of great players,” said Benham. “We’ve already played a lot of the top seeds in the tournament. I don’t have any expectations for the tournament other than to have fun. I know that if I play my game I will do fairly well. So, I’m just going to go have fun out there.”
Coach Seal thinks that Benham’s game will give him every opportunity to succeed this weekend in Wichita.
“Logan is an all-court player, but his strength seems to be his service and serve return,” he said. “Also, his backhand is awesome; it’s devastating.”
McAfee is still just a freshman, but according to his coach, he plays with a maturity beyond his years. His record, which stands at 26-9, reflects his assumption.
“Devin is a baseline player who relies on his forehand,” Coach Seal commented. “He is learning to hit his backhand. He has a decent net game for a young player, and he will develop into a pretty good all-court player. His one true strength is his consistency.”
As for himself, Devin was pleasantly surprised he qualified as a freshman.
“It feels pretty good [to qualify],” he declared. “I didn’t really expect to make it this far, but as the season went on, I was able to control my emotions in my matches better, and even when I’m down, I’m able to come back and at least try my best.”
One of the reasons McAfee was as surprised as he was because he took some time off from the sport last year.
“I didn’t play all that much last year; so, coming back, I was a little rusty,” McAfee stated. “I’ve definitely improved over the season. I’m just excited to go to state.”
Benham should have a first-round bye due to his being seeded in the top two, but Devin McAfee will be playing right away: at 11:30 on Friday morning. No matter what happens, Pittsburg should be proud of these two for such a successful season, and for Benham, a successful career.