By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
After a pair of 5-2 regular season defeats to conference champion Buffalo, the St. Michael-Albertville boys’ tennis squad had the dubious task to try and knock off the Bison in Monday’s opening round of the Sub-Section 8AA playoffs played indoors at Sartell.
STMA came into the playoffs as the south section’s No. 3 seed. Buffalo and Becker were the No. 2 and No. 1 seeds, respectively.
Head coach Jim Riles made a couple lineup changes late in the season, moving No. 1 singles player Denver Robak to No. 1 doubles and shifting No. 2 singles player Jimmy Li to the top spot.
The move paid off a bit for the Knights as Robak, a senior, teamed with junior Zach House at No. 1 doubles for a 6-4, 6-4 win against Buffalo. The Bison in turn took the No. 1 singles point with senior Chris Polzine defeating STMA eighth grader Jimmy Li 6-2, 6-1.
“Buffalo has five seniors at the top of their lineup and they are physically a stronger team than we are,” Riles said. “I thought for being an eighth grader that Jimmy stepped up really well for us. I hope our sophomores will step up in a couple years and make us a strong team like Buffalo had this year.”
Taylor Rothstein was one STMA sophomore that stepped up Monday and won his match 6-4, 7-5 at No. 3 singles. Rothstein and senior Thor Holstad helped split the singles points as Holstad improved his singles record to 12-2 with a 7-6 (10-8), 6-0 win at No. 2 singles over Buffalo’s Andrew Christenson.
“Thor had a really good match and stepped up to win that first set in a tiebreaker,” Riles said. “That win was huge and I think Christenson kind of gave up in the second set after losing that first one.”
Riles said the pivotal two points of the match came down to three doubles and four singles. STMA dropped both matchups with sophomore Aaron Dorland losing 6-2, 6-4 at No. 4 singles and sophomore’s Joe Hebeisen and Cody Jones losing at No. 3 doubles 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 2-6.
Senior Zach Schopf and sophomore John Budde also were defeated at No. 2 doubles 6-0, 6-3.
The Knights finished the season with an overall record of 10-4 and finished second to Buffalo in the Mississippi 8 final standings with a 7-2 conference mark.
Six different Knights participated in Wednesday’s Section 8AA individual sections (results next week). Li and Budde are unseeded in singles play, as is Schopf and House in doubles play. Holstad and Robak went in seeded No. 4 in doubles play.
“We had a successful season,” Riles said. “The guys had to put up with some bad weather and I’m hoping some of the younger guys come back next year even stronger.”