Youth is served in Lumberjacks tennis programThe team season is over for the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys tennis program, but performances in two section playoff matches left hopes high for the team’s future. With the team season over, the individual meet was supposed be held as this edition goes to press.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The team season is over for the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys tennis program, but performances in two section playoff matches left hopes high for the team’s future.
CEC lost 5-2 to an excellent Hibbing team in Tuesday’s second round, when the Bluejackets’ superior depth showed through.
“We ran into some good singles players,” CEC Coach Steve Rickstrom said. “We stacked up our doubles teams and hoped to sweep them and catch a break in singles.”
That didn’t happen, with Hibbing sweeping the singles matches to guarantee the team win.
Senior Tanner Webster and freshman Christian Pritchett, who have seen time at singles this year, combined at first doubles to beat Aden Casey and Taylor Persson 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 6-3 for one point, and the second doubles team of Robbie Sobczak and Ryan Willgohs defeated Scotty Perunovich and Jake Bestal 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 for the other. The third doubles team of Ben Tomhave and Nick Tomhave narrowly lost 7-5, 7-5 at third doubles.
“I was happy with the doubles,” Rickstrom said. “Robbie and Ryan bounced back and beat good players, and the Tomhaves played well.”
Moving Webster and Pritchett was a calculated risk.
“Tanner was one of our best players all year at three singles and Christian had our best record of anyone all year at four,” Rickstrom said. “For not having a lot of veteran players coming in to the season, what an effort we got. We had great improvement from the kids.”
CEC moved to the second round by virtue of a nervy 5-2 win over Denfeld on Monday.
Sean Kedrowski beat Cory Bolen 5-7, 7-5 (11-9), while second singles player John Scheuer went to three sets against Kyle Stupca despite maddening equipment trouble.
“He had trouble with the frame on his racquet and his strings lost tension,” Rickstrom said. “He had trouble keeping the ball in play. It was like playing with a slingshot.”
Webster won in three sets at third singles and Pritchett needed only 40 minutes to win 6-0, 6-0 at No. 4.
“Christian Pritchett is amazing,” Rickstrom said . “[His match] was unbelievable. He’s just a good, good player and a weapon at fourth singles. When we can throw out a freshman and almost guarantee we’ll win that point, that gives us a head start.”
The doubles teams sewed up the win, but it was nerve-racking. The second team of eighth-grader Joey Gotchnik and Luke Heine fought off two match points in the second set to win their match 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5, and the Tomhaves won 6-4, 6-3 at third doubles.
“The three coaches were pulling their hair out,” Rickstrom said. “We got ahead early and thought we would coast and the tables turned. It was such a roller coaster that I would take [the Hibbing] match over Denfeld’s. My heart can’t handle that kind of tension.”
With the team season over, the individual meet will be held as this edition goes to press. Rickstrom will shift players again, using singles players in the doubles tournament and (very young) doubles players in the singles event.
Kedrowski and Scheuer are seeded fourth as one doubles team and will get a first round bye. Webster and Pritchett will remain together as well and are the 10th seed.
Meanwhile, Sobczak and Willgohs, usually a doubles team, will play singles as the 11th and 12th seeds, respectively.
“They’re in for a rude awakening,” Rickstrom admitted, “but middle school kids getting to play with the team’s last six players in the individual tournament is rare.”
The tournament will begin at
10 a.m. Thursday, but with rain in the forecast, the event may be moved to Friday or even to Virginia’s indoor facility.