Schuck's Clipboard

Devils' doubles team 'Blazen' way to state

The Quincy High School doubles team of Greysen Arns, left, and Blake Hayden play in front of the Quincy contingent during the Class 2A Edwardsville Sectional. | Submitted photo
By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 23, 2019 12:01 am Updated: May. 23, 2019 12:26 am

The nickname suggests Blake Hayden and Greysen Arns play with an edge and the kind of ferocity needed to mow down opponents through a grueling three days of play in the Illinois Class 2A boys tennis state tournament.

It just doesn't mirror their off-the-court demeanor.

Quincy High School's No. 1 doubles team is more boy scout than cut throat. The seniors are members of National Honor Society, were named Illinois State Scholars and received the President's Education Award. They're headed to Indiana University and Missouri S&T University, respectively, with futures bursting with possibilities.

They're polite, quirky, friendly and outgoing.

That's until they take the court and "Team Blazen" takes shape.

Hayden and Arns displayed that last weekend at the Class 2A Edwardsville Sectional. Seeded fourth in a loaded field, the Blue Devils won their first two matches in straight sets to secure a state tournament berth. It put them opposite the second-seeded O'Fallon duo of Evan Potter and Gavin Sohn in the semifinals.

The QHS tandem survived the surprising heat -- temperatures reached 85 degrees last weekend for the first hot weather of the spring -- and knocked off Potter and Sohn 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Although they lost in the sectional finals to a team from Edwardsville, there was an edge to every point they won.

It was that way the weekend before when the Blue Devils won the Western Big Six Conference championship.

It's a trend that has been developing since Hayden returned from a knee injury, and should it continue this weekend in the greater Chicagoland area, they might be able to improve on their state tournament showing from two years ago.

As sophomores, Hayden and Arns went 1-2 and were eliminated on the first day of the tournament.

They are better equipped and better prepared for a longer stay this time, beginning with Thursday's opening round.

"We know each other well. Really, we don't need to talk on the court," said Arns, who has played doubles with Hayden since they were freshmen. "If a ball gets hit over Blake's head, he knows to switch over because I'm running back for it already. It happens vice versa. We understand each other's game. You just feel it."

The month Hayden missed this season nursing a strained knee didn't change that.

"He got right back into the game pretty quickly," Arns said. "We were able to play the same tennis as we did before the injury. Once his knee healed where he didn't have to wear the brace all the time, it was flowing pretty well.

"We were back to being our old selves, the solid doubles team we like to be."

It's the team they've always been. Smart, steady and determined.

They've added an edge and an identity. It's how they have blazed their own trail.