The first step to defending a state championship: Get through the opening rounds of the tournament virtually unscathed.

The Lincoln Pius X boys tennis team did just that during the first two rounds of the Class B state tennis tournament on Thursday at Woods Tennis Center.

The Thunderbolts still have all of their singles and doubles alive in the brackets and have racked up 36 points to tie Elkhorn South at the top of the leaderboard after Day 1.

“Our sights have been on Elkhorn South all year,” Lincoln Pius X coach Nolan DeWispelare said. “They’re still the favorites, they come in with a full team from last year that placed second so they’re going to be tough to beat.”

If Elkhorn South is the favorite, the Bolts aren’t far behind as they dropped only 10 sets over eight matches, just three more than the Storm.

Singles players Samuel Coy and Mason Warner worked through their brackets with relative ease, but the state tennis title will likely come down to championship matches against tough opponents from Elkhorn South.

“Sam has put in a lot of work during the offseason and during this season on not only his physical game but also his mental game,” DeWispelare added. “It has really shown through in his matches all season long and today as well.”

Standing in Coy’s way is defending champion Mason Meier, who rolled through his two matches without dropping a set on Thursday.

Meier has plenty of experience dominating at Woods. The senior would likely be the three-time defending champion, going for four straight, if he had not been ruled ineligible prior to last year's state tournament due to an NSAA ruling.

“I had a couple of good matches today, just went out there and had fun,” Meier said. “State is always fun though. There’s a little bit of pressure but I’m relaxed right now. I have some tough matches tomorrow but I’m playing really good tennis right now so I’m confident.”

The senior committed to Nebraska's tennis team earlier this week but his work is far from over at Elkhorn South. He will face No. 4-seed Issac Grant from Mount Michael before a likely match with Coy in the final.

“I’ve played (Grant and Coy) both this season and it went pretty well for me,” said Meier, who’s 24-0 on the season. “Hopefully I can do the same tomorrow, play my game, and I’ll be fine.”

Mount Michael is currently in third place with 28 points while Holdrege (26), Kearney Catholic (24) and Grand Island CC (22) round out the top six.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7431 or scarlson@journalstar.com.

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