|Joe Turnquist earned the fourth seed in the singles sub-section tournament and is expected to make some noise in his bracket.|
BY JEFF NORTONThere's no rest for the weary, and a bunch of Wildcats should definitely be weary after the past eight days.
The Chisago Lakes boys tennis team wrapped up a North Suburban Conference title, secured the second seed in the south sub-section, finished out the regular season and advanced to the final four of sections all in the span of one week and a day.
Chisago Lakes 7, Princeton 0
The Wildcats began their wild week with a sweep of the Princeton Tigers. Although the Tigers aren't a conference opponent, they are a section foe, and it was still a very important match for the 'Cats.
Most of the match was lopsided in favor of Chisago Lakes, but the biggest showdown of the day was at first singles between CL's Johannes Rau and Princeton's Isaiah Mayercheck. Mayercheck has been in the upper echelon of Minnesota tennis for a while, and Rau didn't have much of a problem beating him in straight sets 6-4, 6-3. "Jo Jo had the upper hand the majority of the time," Head Coach Corey McKinnon said. "He's gotten stronger as the season has worn on and he has gotten more used to the hard courts. Although he had never faced him, Joe had people telling him it would be a good match up for him, and he was really looking forward to the match."
Both players had their own moments in the match, but Rau just broke serve a few more times than Mayercheck, and that made all the difference. "It was a fun tennis match to watch and it was good for Joe," McKinnon said.
Chisago Lakes 6, Cambridge-Isanti 1
The 'Cats basically wrapped up the number two seed in the south sub-section with this victory over the Bluejackets, but it didn't come easy.
The Andover Huskies, who was competing with Chisago Lakes and Cambridge-Isanti for the two seed had already beaten C-I 4-3 earlier this year. If the Jackets toppled the 'Cats, Andover would've most likely received the second seed.
But, the match needed to be played, and CL took a commanding early lead over the Bluejackets. Rau was off the court quickly with a win, as well as Brett Lizotte and Brian Hynes at first doubles and Albin Anner and Will Gillach at second doubles.
The 'Cats only needed one more point to seal the win, but all four of the remaining matches were in third sets. Jake Sells and Hunter Haas lost at third doubles 6-4, 1-6, 0-6 and C-I climbed within two points. "Their third doubles team was impressive today," McKinnon said. "Jake and Hunter threw everything they had at them and they just couldn't get the points that they needed."
But, once the next match ended things went quickly. Blake Lizotte finished off his match at fourth singles with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 win, which secured the victory for CL. The score got even more convincing in the next five minutes when Joe Turnquist finished off his match 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, and Vinnie Gorski came through with a 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 win.
"We had to win this match in good fashion, and we did, winning 6-1," McKinnon said. "With the convincing win, it was a more black and white scenario that we were the second seed and Andover would be three."
McKinnon said he enjoyed the challenge of having so many close matches for his kids, especially after they dropped their last close match, 4-3 to St. Louis Park "Although we had been here before with Totino and Benilde, we found out in the St. Louis Park match that we aren't unbreakable. Despite the pressure, I just told the kids it was a tennis match. I just wanted them to have fun and play hard and let the scoreboard fall whichever way it happened," he said.
Chisago Lakes 7, St. Francis 0
Although it was a mismatch on paper, the North Suburban Conference match up was still important to the Wildcats, as a win would secure their share of the conference title.
All the guys buzzed through their matches quickly and earned the hardware that comes with the conference championship. "I just wanted the guys to come out and play crisp and focus on their side of the net, and they did just that," McKinnon said.
Although Sells and Haas had a bit of trouble at third doubles, they came through with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win. "I just told them they had to be the hammer and their opponent had to be the nail," McKinnon explained. "Jake transitioned nicely to an aggressive player after the second set loss and Hunter started putting away points in the third."
Chisago Lakes 7, St. Francis 0
The Wildcats rematched the Saints a few days later in the first round of sections after earning the second seed in the south sub-section. (Forest Lake earned the top seed and a bye)
The match was even more lopsided in favor of Chisago Lakes this time, as the Saints coach moved his third doubles team that had played so well in the team's previous matches up to first doubles. "We always talk about ethical tennis, and although it didn't help his team against us, it was the right thing to do for the St. Francis coach to move his guys up," McKinnon said. "I have to give credit to the coach and the kids over there at St. Francis. They have a very sportsmanlike team and have a lot going for them on and off the court."
Chisago Lakes 5, Andover 2
The Wildcats moved to the final four of sections with a 5-2 beating of the third seeded Andover Huskies.
Although McKinnon had been worried about which team would be seeded higher, it was clear which team is better out on the courts. Rau and Blake Lizotte won easily at first and fourth singles, and all three doubles teams ran through their opponents in straight sets.
"It was just a good day for us. We wanted to get to Hibbing and be able to put ourselves in a position to make the state tournament," McKinnon said.
The lone losses for Chisago Lakes came from Turnquist at second singles, who just had a bad day according to McKinnon, and Gorski at third singles. Gorski lost 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 9-11. McKinnon believes Gorski would win that match on most occasions, but he knew the score was in favor of CL already, and he had more tennis to play.
The wins advanced Chisago Lakes on to face the top seed from the North sub-section, which is Hibbing. The teams don't have any common opponents on the year, and although Hibbing participated in the Andover Tournament earlier in the year, they were missing some of their key players who are back in the lineup. The Wildcats travel to Hibbing Tuesday, May 31.
Individual Sub-section Preview
The Wildcats have Turnquist and Gorski participating in the singles part of sections and the teams of Rau and Brett Lizotte and Hynes and Anner in doubles.
Turnquist and Gorski are seeded fourth and sixth, respectively, and although both have a tough road, they are both expected to make some noise in the tournament.
In doubles, Rau and Lizotte are the top seed and received a bye in the first round. Rau made the move to doubles because the section is dominated by Forest Lake's Dusty Boyer, who has won two straight state titles. Lizotte and Rau's older brother David made the state tournament last year in doubles, and David was the first one to say that his younger brother was the better tennis player.
"There will be a little bit of adjustment, but they have been playing together in practice and on their own time," McKinnon said. "They've seen some good competition together, and Joe's play should complement Brett's power."
Anner and Hynes teamed up without any controversy when Gillach, an eighth grader and Anner's partner all year, deferred to the seniors without any urging from the coaches. "That was an A+ move in my book," McKinnon said. "What a classy move by a classy guy." Hynes and Anner are seeded fifth in the tournament.
Although the season is still going for most of the players, it ended for the junior varsity guys, and McKinnon wanted to praise his assistant coach. "A ton of credit goes to John Pieper for this season. He works extremely hard for this program, and I couldn't do this without him," McKinnon said. "He was a former doubles player for Chisago and he has done a phenomenal job with the younger kids."
McKinnon also praised Tim Turnquist and Jim Gillach. Both are parents of kids on the team and have both volunteered time to help coach this year as both are accomplished players. "I'm fortunate to have a network in the community that has guys like this in it," McKinnon said. "They are good players and good people."