Conway Springs tennis loses chance to play for state title

Conway Springs had that kind of tennis team that coaches dream about.

The Cardinals had nine seniors, all who had played for coach Chris Bellar the previous three seasons. It was highest number of seniors Bellar had during his 29 years coaching boys and girls tennis.

And five of those seniors played in the 2019 tournament. Luke Bellar medaled two of three years in singles, while Peyton Winter and Joshua Koester, who played every double match together since they were freshmen, medaled two years. Cody Jones was a two-time qualifier in doubles, while Garrett Robinson qualified in singles as a junior.

“We had a team that I believe would have ranked in the top three in 3-2-1A,” Chris Bellar wrote in an email. “We expected to challenge for the state title with some other really good, quality teams in an always quality 3-2-1A field.”

But spring sports were canceled by the Kansas State High School Activities Association due to COVID-19.

“It ended just that quick,” Winter said. “It was definitely a weird feeling. It was a heartbreaker.”

Winter and Koester had built a bond on the court after playing together for four years, often knowing what the other was going to do next.

“After playing together all those years, it was definitely a strategic thing for us,” Winter said. “I was good at the net. I think I had good hands. He was a pretty good server and very good returning.”

Conway Springs had an excellent opportunity to win state.

“It was our last opportunity to get a state championship,” Winter said. “We wanted it pretty bad.”

Winter’s tennis career is over. So is his football and basketball careers. He plans to attend Kansas State and study Construction Science and Management.

“I don’t have any words for how it ended,” Winter said. “It definitely hit harder than school ending or anything else.”