By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
Squeezed in between two unlikely snowstorms was a pair of convincing St. Michael-Albertville boys’ tennis victories.
After defeating St. Cloud Apollo 7-0 in the team’s season opener April 8, the Knights had to wait until April 16 to play their second match of the season. Like their first matchup, STMA took care of business with another 7-0 shutout, this time over conference rival Cambridge-Isanti.
After sweeping all match play in straight sets against Section 8AA rival Apollo, the Knights nearly pulled off the same feat in an April 16 showdown against the Bluejackets at Middle School West.
Except for a No. 3 doubles match featuring junior Josh Alexander and sophomore Cody Jones, the Knights took all seven points in straight sets. Being paired for the first time as varsity partners, the duo convincingly won the first set 6-1. The Bluejackets would turn the tables in the second set with a 6-1 victory – forcing the third set.
After falling behind 5-2 in the deciding set, both Alexander and Jones fought back and took the third set tiebreaker 7-5. STMA head coach Jim Riles said the late rally had to do with the pair finally finding their game.
“When they were struggling in their match, it wasn’t anything Cambridge-Isanti was doing. They were just giving away points,” Riles said. “They were able to come back because they started playing more consistent and making less unforced errors. They started driving to the net more.”
While the team victory was already in hand, Riles said it was nice to have a matchup go down to the wire to see how his players would respond.
“It’s nice to have a close one and see how the guys battle through some tough points,” he said.
As was the case in the first and only other matchup of the season, the singles lineup remained the same and all four singles players went to 2-0 on the season with straight set victories.
Junior No. 1 singles player Denver Robak won 6-1, 6-4. Eighth grader Jimmy Li won at No. 2 singles 6-2, 6-1. Senior captain Thor Holstad won at third singles 6-0, 6-2 and sophomore John Budde picked up a 6-4, 6-0 win at No. 4 singles.
“I thought for the second straight match, Robak lost focus a bit in the second set, but was able to pull it back and get the win,” Riles said. “Li put a lot of time in this winter and he’s really played well. Both Holstad and Budde’s experience has showed up in the first two matches.”
With the Knights missing senior captain Zach Schopf, the doubles teams were scrambled a bit and the No. 1 doubles pair of junior Zach House and sophomore Aaron Dorland – who was filling in the top pair for the absent Schopf – prevailed with a 6-0, 6-2 win.
The other win came at No. 2 doubles where sophomore Taylor Rothstein and sophomore Joe Hebeisen earned a 6-0, 6-4 win. It was the first varsity win for the doubles tandem, as the previous match they played at No. 3 doubles and earned the win by forfeit.
“It was nice to see them get their first win and they had to earn it,” Riles said.
The last point of the match came at the third doubles, where the Knights won the 3-set victory, improving their overall record to 2-0 and conference record to 1-0.
STMA was scheduled (weather permitting) for a Monday, April 22 showdown at Rogers and Tuesday at home versus Monticello (results unavailable). Their next scheduled match is slated for a 4:15 p.m. start this Friday at Cambridge-Isanti.