Ronak Kumar had designs on success in singles during his final season of high school tennis.
Turns out, doubles is where it's at for the Century High School senior.
Paired with sophomore Mason Pitcher late in the season, the unexpected doubles team quickly became a West Region contender, and more. An upset win over Legacy’s star-studded duo of Michael Janes and Bradley Moylan on Sept. 21 began a run that ended last week with a West Region doubles title. Janes and Moylan finished 1-2 in singles.
“That was one of the biggest wins a Century team has had the last several years,” said coach Dan Keith. “That gave them confidence that they could achieve big things together if they played doubles.”
Keith’s words proved prophetic.
Kumar and Pitcher have went undefeated since joining forces, capped by last weekend’s region title where they did not drop a set.
“To be honest with you, I wasn’t expecting to win that match against Janes and Moylan, they’re incredible players,” Kumar said. “It was crazy. We played the best tennis of our lives. It was a big confidence booster. It kind of was a situation where if we’re capable of beating a great team like that, maybe we can be pretty good together.”
Kumar brings several intangibles to the court, his coach said. He’s very smart -- he ranks at the top of this class academically -- works relentlessly and is a strong leader.
“Ronak is a thinking man’s player,” Keith said. “He’s very disciplined. He knows the weaknesses of his opponents and tries to exploit that to his advantage.”
On the court, Kumar is strong at the net and relies most on his forehand. He’s also knows for his quick reaction time. But in doubles, it takes a quality partner, and he had high praise for his.
“Mason’s just a terrific all-around player,” Kumar said of Pitcher. “He never misses.”
Individual accolades are nice, but the region doubles championship was made all the sweeter by the team’s success. After being picked fifth in the preseason coaches’ poll, the Patriots earned an unexpected trip to state as a team as well. The Patriots face Fargo Shanley in the 2 vs. 3 match today at 10 a.m.
Century had struggled to break through team-wise recent seasons, but things begin to turn recently.
“We weren’t expected to do a lot this year, but about three-fourths through the season things started to click,” Keith said. “A lot of it was due to the attitude of all of our guys and the leadership of Ronak and Mason and their sheer will not to go down without a fight. That attitude has really been embodied by everyone.”
Century has two doubles teams qualified. Bryce Everson and Colton Schulte are seeded sixth from the West. While the competition always ratchets up at state, the Patriots contingent has designs on making a dent.
“It was huge for us as a team to get to state,” Kumar said. “We’ve come a long way just this season. The teams from the East are always very talented, but we view this as a great opportunity. Whatever happens, we’re going to really enjoy it and hopefully have some success.”
On the Go
It will be a busy weekend for the Legacy tennis team.
The West Region champs open dual action at 10 a.m. against Fargo Shanley. A semifinal matchup against Grand Forks Central or Century looms, powerhouse Grand Forks Red River the heavy favorite on the other side of the bracket.
When the individual tournament begins on Friday, there will be Sabers scattered all over the grounds.
West Region champion Michael Janes is the top seed on the bottom of the singles bracket. Bradley Moylan owns the No. 2 seed in the top half. Also, Sean Joyce is qualified individually.
Doubles-wise, seniors Joe Wegner and Robert Modin could be a sleeper team to watch. They took third at the West Region tournament. Paxton Miller and Jay Moylan round out the deep Legacy contingent.
Bismarck High will be represented by Lucas Shell and Calvin Karalus. They draw a tough opening assignment in East Region champs Max Johnson and Gavin Loscheider of Red River.