Central tennis places fourth in Class 3


By Don Eskins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

The Springfield Central Bulldogs, following a 5-0 loss to John Burroughs in the quarterfinals and a 5-0 loss to Marquette in the consolation final, finished fourth at this year’s 2023 Class 3 State Tennis Tournament.

The Class 3A Final Four took place on Friday, May 26, at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.

Despite dropping contests, to both John Burroughs and Marquette, Central High head coach Donita Cox said she felt like her kids played their best tennis of the year.

“I feel like our kids played extremely hard against two of the top teams in the state,” said Cox. “Although we lost it wasn’t because of a lack of effort.”

“Neither Josh Kim, our No. 1 player, nor Raghav Bansal, our No. 2, lost singles matches during the Final Four. Their matches were halted early due to the score reaching 5-0 before they could finish,” she said. “Although they didn’t lose, they had no opportunity to close out their high school careers with wins either, and they were playing well.”

“Kim’s effort against John Burrough’s No. 1 singles player was especially impressive,” said the Central coach. “Although he was this year’s singles state champion he couldn’t put Josh, who played him very tough, away.”


“I was also very proud of Raghav. He had to shoulder our No. 1 doubles team with our No. 4 man Saahil Verma,” she said. “It was a really tough draw for them but he handled the challenge for us really well.”

Although pleased with their efforts the losses were bittersweet for the Bulldogs.

“It was difficult for our kids to lose twice. They wanted to bring a state championship trophy back to Central with them,” said Cox. “But that wasn’t in the cards for us this year. John Burroughs and Marquette were both very good teams.”

“But our kids didn’t leave Cooper Complex with their heads down either. They played hard throughout both matches and I couldn’t be prouder of a group of young men,” said the Central coach. “But in a class that boasts 52 teams they finished fourth, ahead of 48 others scattered throughout Missouri.”

But that wasn’t the only thing they had to be proud of. This year’s Bulldogs, comprised of Kim, Bansal, Pranav Mandava, Verma, Cole Brodeur and John Park had a lot to celebrate as they wrote their names in the annals of Central Bulldog history.

“This was the first time our boys program has ever reached the Final Four. I’d say that’s quite an accomplishment for them by itself,” said Cox. “Returning to Central with a fourth-place plaque to put on display in our trophy case will be a great way for them to put the finishing touches on what has been a great season of tennis for them..”

And just how great was the season for this year’s Bulldogs? Cox was quick to answer.

“Our kids won this year’s Kickapoo Invitational Tournament, the Springfield Invitational Tournament, Conference, District and defeated St. Joseph Central 5-3 at sectionals,” she said. “They also won our All-Conference Academic Championship, something our kids have done every year. All of our kids were members of the All-Academic team.”

“We also saw some great play from several of our individuals. Josh Kim and Raghav Bansil, our No. 1 doubles team, won this year’s Springfield Invitational doubles championship for the second year in a row and our No. 3 man Pranav Mandava placed second in singles,” said the coach. “We had three players, Kim, Bansal and Mandava earn All-Confernence honors and we sent three players to compete in this year’s Individual State Tournament. Bansal competed in singles, Kim and Mandava in doubles.”

“So our kids really enjoyed a fantastic year. They came together as a team, set goals for themselves and achieved them,” said Cox. “And they got us to the Final Four as a team for the first time in our school’s history. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it. I’m so proud of them all.”

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