by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
For the second straight year, Maple Grove edged Mounds View 4-3 in the Section 5 boys’ tennis team championship match last week to qualify for the state tournament. The Crimson won all four singles matches to garner the winning margin.
Crimson first singles Zach Adkins, who also qualified for state singles play, said nothing can top last year’s section victory, which sent Maple Grove to the first state tournament in school history.
“I think last year was more thrilling obviously with the fourth singles clinch for the win by Rory Calabria at 3-3,” Adkins said. “And at that time we were not necessarily the favorite to beat Mounds View. This year most would say that we were expected to win.”
Indeed, the Crimson were the top seed this year and were ranked in the state’s top three all season. Yet, Adkins said the team did not feel any extra pressure being the top seed.
“I felt like there was more pressure last year because it was our first real good chance at winning the section,” he said. “It was the most nervous I had ever been before a match. I felt much more confident that we would win this year as long as our players did their jobs. I felt like each individual match felt less pressure because they knew that in some matches we were, from the beginning, probably going to win.”
The Crimson knew they had the advantage in singles and all four singles came through. Adkins at first singles, Charlie Adkins at second singles, Sam Hochberger at third singles and Calabria at fourth singles all won in straight sets.
“This years championship is an affirmation that the mentality we play with at Maple Grove is stronger than the players who move through the program,” Crimson coach J.C. Lippold said. “Every alumni, current player and future player knows that they are a part of something special and that they are carrying on the tradition and the Crimson Banner for every player this program has included. We play positive, we play for our teammates and we play hard. We will carry this banner through many section championships to come and all the way to a state championship.”
Adkins agrees that great team chemistry is a key ingredient for Maple Grove’s success.
“We have reached this spot not only through our talent at the sport, but through acting as a team as well,” Adkins said. “A lot of teams’ coaches envy the chemistry we have between players and the way we work with our coaches. We’re always motivating each other, whether it’s through encouragement during a match or trying to beat each other to get better. I also think we are very lucky to have full-time tournament players like myself, my brother Charlie, Sam Hochberger, and Rory all during the same generation of high school players.”
Both Lippold and Adkins feel Maple Grove has a legitimate shot at winning the state championship. The Crimson, seeded third, had faced all the top teams in the state during the regular season. Their only losses are against No. 1 Wayzata (1-6, 4-3), No. 2 Elk River (4-3) and No. 3 Edina (4-3).
“We played all the top teams, yes, but we played nearly all of them within the first week and a half of the season,” Adkins said. “It certainly made us better for the rest of the season, but I believe we could have turned all those 3-4s into 4-3s if we had some easier matches to practice with beforehand. We used some lineups during the difficult matches that we would never use anymore. At least now we have state, where it really counts.”
This year’s state tournament is the first with the implementation of seeds, and going in as the third seed gives Maple Grove a guaranteed first-round against a non-seed.
“Last year we were not expected to win our first match against Elk River,” Adkins said. “This year we believe we can make the semis, and then we’ll take it from there. I am more convinced every day that we can win it all. I think it’s clear that we are capable of winning the title.”
“We feel that we have a great chance of claiming our first state title this year,” Lippold said. “We have the players to pull out the matches and are more focused on enjoying the experience of the state tournament more so than winning it, which will bode well to keep relaxed and focused on giving all that we can.”
The state tennis team tournament is Tuesday, June 4 and Wednesday, June 5 at the U of M Baseline Tennis Center. The state championship match is at 4 p.m. June 5.
State singles and doubles tournament follows Thursday, June 6 and Friday, June 7. Adkins qualifies for state singles play and Trevor Kleineschay and Calabria are in the state doubles contest.
“The state singles tournament is open to everyone this year. There is no clear favorite, so anyone can win,” Adkins said. “Last year I didn’t win a match. I just want to play my best there and see where that takes me. It is supposed to be a top 16 in the state tournament, so giving myself expectations as far as how many matches I should win is not a good idea. Also, the state tournament can create some very bizarre draws. With a really lucky draw I could find myself advancing far into the tournament.”
Results of the Section 5 championship match:
Zach Adkins (MG) vs. Jakob Bartels 6-2 6-3
Charlie Adkins (MG) v. Jake Trondson 6-2 6-1
Sam Hochberger (MG) v. Hunter Krebsbach 6-3 6-4
Rory Calabria (MG) v. CJ Lloyd 6-4 6-3
Trevor Kleineschay/Derrick Marvin (MG) v. Austin
Weigert/Griffin Anderson 6-7, 6-7
Jacob Endres/Vinura Withanawasam (MG) v. Henry Morris/Carter Jones 6-2, 2-6, 6-7
Trevor Gifft/Nate Nemeth (MG) v. David Le/Gabe Dargis 3-6, 1-6