By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
St. Michael-Albertville senior Thor Holstad and junior doubles partner Denver Robak advanced to day two of the Section 8AA individual boys’ tennis tournament held May 22 at St. Cloud Apollo.
Despite not playing one single match this year as doubles partners, the makeshift doubles team came into tournament play seeded fourth. Ironically, Robak and Holstad were paired in the same bracket as junior teammate Zach House and senior Zach Schopf – a tandem who spent most the season as the Knights No. 1 doubles pairing.
House and Schopf won their opening-round matchup 6-3, 6-0 over Big Lake’s Guanbei Wonder and Spencer Mattson. The duo was then eliminated in the quarterfinals to Buffalo’s top seeded pairing of Adam and Andy Hartung 6-2, 6-2. House finished the year 12-4 and Schopf 11-4 in overall doubles play.
After a first-round bye, Holstad and Robak cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Austin Brandes and Ethan Fabel – No. 2 seed from Buffalo. The Knights doubles tandem eventually lost in the semifinals to the Hartung brothers. After taking the first set 6-2, they went on to drop the final two sets 7-5, 6-2 dropping the pair into a must-win third place matchup.
Holstad and Robak faced off and won the third-place match 6-3, 7-5 against Becker’s Austin Hill and Josiah Borst.
The victory sends the doubles tandem to the section finals on May 28. They lock horns at 3 p.m. at Apollo High School as the No. 3 seed from the south and face Bemidji freshman Noah Holter and sophomore Matt Hokanson. Winner advances to face the winner between Brainerd’s Reno Fussy and Luke Jacobsen against Becker’s Erik Tungland and Brett Hultgren.
Things didn’t go quite as smoothly for a pair of Knights singles players. Eighth-grader Jimmy Li was eliminated in the first round 7-5, 6-1 to Sauk Rapids-Rice senior Levi Paul. Paul was the No. 4 seeded singles player.
STMA sophomore John Budde defeated in the first round St. Cloud Apollo’s John Ano 6-0, 7-5. But his season came to a sudden end against the No. 2 seed in a 6-1, 6-0 defeat to Becker’s Dawson Brown.
STMA’s season ended earlier in the week with a 4-3 loss at sections to Buffalo. Robak, House and Holstad were named to the Mississippi 8 All-Conference Team. Honorable mentions were Budde, Li, Schopf and sophomore Joe Hebeisen.
“It was a great effort by all the players,” said STMA head coach Jim Riles.