EMPORIA — Shannon Schartz is setting out on a new adventure next spring — taking over the Great Bend Middle School tennis program.
That will come after coaching the Great Bend High School girls’ varsity tennis team one more season this fall.
In his final season as the GBHS boys’ coach, the Panthers gave their longtime mentor a send-off he’ll never forget.
“I think we have five of the best players all-time in boys’ tennis, and it makes it special,” Schartz said on Saturday during the second day of the Class 5A state tennis tournament. “I’ve had nice kids that weren’t as good, and I’ve had really good kids that weren’t as nice.
“Having the combination of really good kids and really talented players, that makes it really special.”
The Panthers, who qualified a program-record five players for state, had two doubles teams — Austin Jacobs/Chase Buntain and Adam Neeland/Grant Harris — advance to Saturday’s final round. Singles player Nick Moyers, a catalyst throughout the season, was ousted after finishing 1-2 on Friday afternoon.
The Jacobs/Buntain combination, which beat the Neeland/Harris combo in an all-Great Bend quarterfinal on Friday, lost to eventual state champions Justin Bengston and Nathan Garlow of Salina Central, 6-0, 6-3, in Saturday morning’s semifinals.
“We were playing good, but they (Central’s duo) were playing amazing and hardly missed a shot,” Jacobs said. “They played a helluva match.”
Jacobs and Buntain then settled for fourth place after losing to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Blake Jackson and Eric Robinson in Saturday’s consolation final, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
“We didn’t think we would make it this far,” Buntain said. “It’s our senior year, the final time we’ll play tennis in high school, and we just wanted to have fun with it.”
Neeland and Harris lost their lone match on Saturday, falling 9-3 to Andover’s Lincoln Blizzard and Matt Rochat.
Moyers, Neeland, Buntain and Jacobs are bound for Barton Community College to play for the Cougars this fall. The lone underclassmen in the group, Harris is a sophomore.
Moyers is regarded by Schartz as “the best all-around player I have ever had.”
Moyers said he was taken aback by those words.
“That’s a huge compliment,” Moyers said. “I’m so humbled by it. I don’t know about that, but it’s a very nice thing to hear coming from him.”