COLUMBIA — Before the Hickman boys tennis opener Monday, the coaches challenged their players.
As his team warmed up on a chilly Monday at Cosmo Park, Hickman head coach Andrew Materer shouted, “Hold serve and win tiebreakers!”
Hickman assistant coach Tom Sheridan urged the players to "make a statement" against Helias Catholic High School before Hickman plays three-time defending state champions Rock Bridge on Thursday.
In eight of nine matches, the Kewpies answered their coaches. Led by sophomore Junyi Wu and senior Daniel Shyu, the Kewpies handily defeated the Crusaders 8-1.
Wu, Shyu and junior Samuel Pottipadu are the returning Hickman varsity players from last season. Materer expects each to compete in every match and anchor a young lineup.
Wu cruised to a 10-0 victory over Kirk Twehous at No. 1 singles, dominating with a powerful serve that he threw high above his head before he hit the ball.
“My serve has come natural to me,” Wu said. “I am a left-handed player, so the spin is different for my opponent.”
Shyu defeated Ethan Lesko 10-2 at No. 2 singles. After the match, Wu and Shyu teamed up to beat Lesko and Zack Yungbluth 10-1 at No. 1 doubles.
Wu and Shyu consistently nailed shots to corners of the court that easily eluded their opponents. They high-fived each other after each point with confident smiles on their faces. The pair built a rapport playing with each other last season and in the summer.
“After every point we will encourage each other if we mess up," Shyu said. "It’s definitely nice to play with someone you can connect with on the tennis court."
Pottipadu and sophomore Kellen Blow each won their single matches 10-1. Junior Jacob Muchow picked up a 10-0 singles win, and junior Blake Wisniewski won 10-6. Muchow and Wisniewski won their No. 3 doubles match 10-1.
Helias got its lone victory at No. 2 doubles to avoid the shutout. Helias’ Caleb Seidel and Jeremy Wolters defeated Pottipadu and Blow in a 9-9, 7-5 tiebreak.
Hickman faces the Bruins at 4 p.m. Thursday back at Cosmo Park.
Shyu compared his team to a dark horse in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
“They are one of the top teams in the state, but you never know,” Shyu said.