By Michael Davison
Globe Sports Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Halfway through Matthew Taylor's singles match, teammate Will Humphreys knew something was wrong.
Taylor had barely moved on two serves from Westminster Christian's Joe Hunsicker. The Thomas Jefferson junior then stretched his legs, looking to work out leg cramps that had developed Thursday.
"They weren't too bad," Taylor said. "I hadn't had them before. I could still bend my knees, but my legs were getting tight."
Eventually, he worked out the kinks and beat Hunsicker 7-6 (3), 6-7 (5), 6-3. Thomas Jefferson, which held a 4-2 advantage after the singles matches, won 5-3 to take third place at the MSHSAA Class 1 Team Championships in Cooper Tennis Complex.
The Taylor-Hunsicker match was the last of the singles, even the No. 3 doubles match finished while they were playing.
"I didn't know the team score," Taylor said. "But it was fun playing under the spotlight with everybody watching.
"He has a great serve. It was a great match. We went to the tiebreaker in the first two sets."
The morning matches didn't go so well for the Cavaliers, though. Pembroke Hill, which eventually went on to successfully defend its team title from last year, won 5-0.
Those matches were played on the outdoor courts while third place was decided indoors.
"The wind played a factor (in the morning)," Humphreys said. "The kid I played had a big serve and it was tough to judge. The wind would catch a ball just right and it would hit the net cord and drop in."
But Humphreys, playing No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles, won both matches against Westminster.
"It's tough to win both," he said. "Last year, I was on the No. 1 doubles team and didn't beat Clayton."
Today's individual championships begin with Humphreys playing Ozark's Cooper Payne and Cavalier Mark Silva taking on Westminster's David Conley, who lost to Humphreys 6-2, 6-0.
Other T.J. victories in Thursday's third-place dual were Silva defeating Andy DeRousse 6-2, 6-0; Joe Newman def. Jack Reed 6-2, 6-4; and Humphreys and Silva beating Conley and Hunsicker 6-2, 6-4. Westminster's Quinn Zielonko beat Will Rhoads 6-4, 6-2 and Jimmy Munson defeated Grant Oserowsky 6-4, 6-2.
Taylor and Newman were playing when the match was stopped. Today they face Marshall's Jesse Murphy and Jake Schulenberg.
"Joe keeps me in line," Taylor said. "He tells me to suck it up or shut up or play better. We connect so well."
While Rhoads and Oserowski didn't win a match, singles or doubles, T.J. coach Dan Lazenby was pleased with their performance.
"Grant's playing his best tennis right now," Lazenby said. "He's gotten so much better. He's just a little off on his serve and his forehand.
"Will was named the most improved on the team this year. When you're a coach and you can see your players really improve, it's satisfying."
Thomas Jefferson was runner-up in the team competition two years in a row, but Lazenby was happy with this year's finish.
"I knew we would be in the top eight in the state," he said. "But when you lose two seniors from the top of your lineup and still make it to state, that's pretty good."
By Michael Davison