Cloquet players battle for third

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TENNIS PLAYOFFS

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Cloquet tennis coach Derek Johnson had to smile when watching last Wednesday's Section 7A third place singles match. His team couldn't lose.

Senior Daniel Stevens beat sophomore Peter Tomhave 5-7, 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 in a highly competitive, all-Cloquet match.

"They didn't play in the match we wanted to play," Johnson said, "but this was a lot of fun."

Stevens and Tomhave started the day in opposite halves of the semifinal bracket but both ran into buzzsaws in their semifinal match. Tomhave lost 6-3, 6-0 to Hibbing senior and second seed Jack Kearney, while Stevens lost to the top seed, Virginia senior Jake Seitz, 6-0, 6-0.

"Seitz was really on his game," Johnson said. "Dan played hard but really nothing he tried worked. It's a credit to his opponent."

That put the two Cloquet players against each other in a third-place match that started loose and fun but grew tighter as time passed.

"It was fun to watch," Johnson said. "It was one of those times where you don't say anything to either player. It was a case of Daniel maybe playing his last high school match and he wasn't ready to be done."

That meant that Stevens got to play a third match on the day, a "true second" match against Kearney, who lost to Seitz in the finals but had not beaten Stevens in the tournament.

Kearney won that match 6-3, 6-0, but it takes nothing away from a fine senior season for Stevens, who played second singles all season long to Tomhave's first singles.

"Daniel would play all day if you let him," Johnson said. "It was a little difficult, but he'll keep grinding out matches. He's a level-headed kid and he doesn't tire easily."

Tomhave played a very competitive match, but as Johnson notes, "Peter will have his chances in the coming years. He wanted to get as far as he could, but he was a bit nervous at times. Now he knows what it's like to get deep into a tournament and he'll learn from it."

The season, by any measure, was a success.

"No one in the section expected us to do anything after graduating 10 seniors last year," Johnson said. "To win a team playoff match and have two guys in the last four of the singles tournament is awesome. I'm very proud of these players."

"They played well all season, even in practice they competed and worked hard," Johnson said. "They deserve their success."