Eighth-graders help CEC earn winsThe Cloquet-Esko-Carlton tennis team wasn’t planning on needing points from its doubles teams to win matches this season – but that’s just what they’ve received.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton tennis team wasn’t planning on needing points from its doubles teams to win matches this season – but that’s just what they’ve received.
As a result, the ’Jacks are 2-1 after their first three matches, thanks in part to an area of the team that was, to use a charitable term, unsettled as the season started.
“We were set for the singles as far as who would be the regular players,” Coach Steve Rickstrom said after Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Duluth Denfeld, “but we have been getting points from the doubles. The little guys are emerging.”
The “little guys” are a pair of eighth-graders.
Ryan Willgohs and Robbie Sobczak moved into the first doubles slot against Denfeld and won their match 6-7 (9-7), 6-3, 6-3 to pick up a vital team point, since the ’Jacks lost at both first and second singles.
“They play a nice little game together,” Rickstrom said. “It’s their second year on the team but they are coming along. They move together surprisingly well for guys without a lot of experience. They both serve well, they both have decent ground strokes for kids that age, but most important they just go out there and have fun.”
Rickstrom said Willgohs and Sobczak may slide into the first doubles spot for much of the season.
Nick and Ben Tomhave picked up a win at third doubles for CEC as well, with Tanner Webster winning in three sets at third singles, including a 6-0 whitewash in the third set, and Christian Pritchett winning at number four to help take the match.
“If you would have told me we would lose one and two singles I wouldn’t have thought we had a chance to win the match,” Rickstrom said.
The pair also won at second doubles in the season opener, a 4-3 win at Eveleth-Gilbert. The match again went to three sets, with the young team winning a tiebreak 10-6. CEC won three singles matches – all in tie-breakers – to take the match.
Sean Kedrowski and John Scheuer won at first and second singles and freshman Pritchett won at number four.
“I don’t know if I would say we were lucky but we had a couple nail biters,” Rickstrom said.
Yet the most pleasant surprise so far has been the young doubles players.
“It’s a weird problem,” he said. “Not a lot of teams in the state that are struggling in doubles have settled in with eighth-graders for their top team. They are a couple of tough kids.”
The team also lost 5-2 to Aitkin, a team which beat Eveleth-Gilbert as well and narrowly missed a win over longtime power Virginia. Scheuer won in three sets at second singles and Pritchett won in three sets at number four for the CEC team points.
“Winning early is good for the confidence,” Rickstrom said. “We play Superior (Thursday), but we might get a wakeup call against East on Monday.”
The young ’Jacks are expected to get a stern test against the Greyhounds.
“We will certainly see a different level of tennis against East,” Rickstrom said. “Then we play Ashland on Tuesday. It’ll be a big eye opener for some of these kids, getting their first chance to play East.”