by Bob San
SUN PRESS Newspapers
John Kuntz is officially the new head coach for the Maple Grove boys’ tennis team but he is no stranger to the Crimson program.
This is Kuntz’ third year coaching at Maple Grove but his first year as a head coach, replacing JC Lippold. Prior to coming to Maple Grove, Kuntz coached at East Grand Forks High School for two years.
Kuntz inherits a talented team that won its second straight section championship and took third in the state tournament last season. With many top players back, the Crimson are one of the top teams in the state and have high expectations.
Returning starters include seniors Zach Adkins, Jacob Endres and Vinnura Withanawasm, juniors Rory Calabria and Trevor Gift, sophomore Charlie Adkins and freshman Sam Hochberger. Zach, the team’ first singles, was a Top 10 player in the state last year and will be again this season. He anchors a deep and balanced lineup.
Adding strength to the squad are seniors Ryan Peterson, Jin Chang and Mitchell Benkufsky, junior Jack Barr and eighth grader Ian Altenburg.
“The strength of our team is definitely our depth,” Kuntz said. “We will have one of the strongest singles lineups in the state but also have very strong doubles teams too. Our doubles teams bring great energy to the team very time we play, so our singles players can build off of that energy.”
The Crimson will look to continue last year’s success and may be going even further. Kuntz himself has a lot of experience with state competition.
“I played for East Grand Forks in high school and also made the state tournament three times individually and once as a team,” Kuntz said. “So I do have a lot of experience at state that I can share with my team.”
Kuntz knows his team will not rest on last year’s laurels because it has solid leadership.
“We have a lot of great leaders on this team who make sure everyone is ready every match,” Kuntz said. “Our captains are Jake Endres, Ryan Peterson, Vinura Withanawasm, Rory Calabria and Zach Adkins.”
The Crimson are talented but they will be challenged by old nemesis Elk River, which edged them for the Northwest Suburban Conference championship last year. But the Crimson got their revenge when they beat the Elks for third place in the state tournament. It looks like more of the same this year.
“I predict that the conference will come down to Maple Grove and Elk River again this year,” Kuntz said. “We play them on our last match of the year. It has come down to our two schools the last three years.”
With talent, depth and experience, Kuntz is confident his team will have another banner season. When asked if his team has a weakness, he said: “The only weakness our team has is this weather holding us back from practicing.”
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