By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
The fight for the Mississippi 8 boys’ tennis title will come down to two teams.
After two busy weeks of action, the only blemish so far on the schedule for the St. Michael-Albertville tennis squad came in a 5-2 loss April 29 against conference leaders Buffalo.
As of Tuesday, the Bison were a perfect 6-0 in conference play and the Knights improved their conference record to 5-1 and 6-1 overall, after posting three wins in three days over both Rogers and twice over Monticello.
The week started with the Knights picking up a 6-1 road win over Rogers (2-8 overall, 1-3 conference). The Knights earned straight set wins at all positions with the exception of No. 1 singles. Junior Denver Robak improved his singles record at the top spot to 4-1 after a long battle that ended with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 win over Royals senior Derek Smith. The lone point for the Royals came at No. 3 doubles with freshman Jake Dotterer and junior Jake Braun winning a hard fought 7-6(4), 7-6(5) win over sophomore Cody Jones and junior Josh Alexander.
Poor weather earlier in the month forced the Knights to makeup a home match the next day with Monticello. STMA wasted little time in defeating the Magic in straight sets 7-0. It marked the fourth time this spring the Knights have won all seven points in match play.
The teams didn’t have to wait for the season’s rematch. The following day the site moved to Monticello, but the results were nearly the same. The Magic salvaged a point, but would lose the match 6-1.
Both the Magic and Knights were missing a couple regulars in the two matchups. STMA was missing eighth grade singles player Jimmy Li. Stepping into Li’s spot in the lineup was senior Thor Holstad, who moved up from No. 3 to the No. 2 position.
Holstad battled hard and won his match 6-3, 7-5 to improve his overall singles record this season to 7-0. Holstad rallied from a 5-4 deficit to win the second set 7-5.
“Thor played a really smart match and really had some big shots in the second set,” said head coach Jim Riles. “I think his experience of being a six-year varsity player showed.”
Other singles winners were Robak and sophomore’s Aaron Dorland and Taylor Rothstein. With Li’s absence, Dorland moved up to the No. 3 spot and Rothstein moved from doubles to the No. 4 singles spot and won 6-1, 6-3.
“Taylor really stepped up moving to singles and played an outstanding match,” Riles said.
STMA took two of three doubles points, earning wins from No. 2 sophomore Joe Hebeisen and senior Zach Schopf 6-2, 6-1 and No. 3 combination of Alexander and Jones 6-4, 7-6(3). Sophomore John Budde and junior Zach House lost at No. 1 doubles 6-2, 6-1.
STMA improved its record to 7-1 overall with a 4-3 win Monday at Andover. Tuesday they were at home against Big Lake and Thursday they are at Buffalo for a rematch with the Bison. Friday they are at Big Lake.
The STMA Invite scheduled for Saturday, May 4 was postponed because of wet and cold conditions.
Junior Denver Robak returns a backhand shot during a No. 1 singles match last week. Robak has won six of his first seven matches playing at the top spot for the Knights this season. (Photo by Bill Halldin)