Prep tennis: Luverne, Worthington netters set for state
WORTHINGTON — It’s the state tournament, so it doesn’t get any easier for the Luverne Cardinals and two area doubles teams preparing to try their luck in Minneapolis this week.
At 10 a.m. today at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis, the Section 3A champion Luverne Cardinals take on Breck School in the first round of the 2014 Class A tourney. The team portion of the tournament concludes Wednesday.
The individual tournament starts on Thursday. The Cardinals’ Jonny Vajgrt and Erik Wohnoutka take on Thief River Falls’ Hunter Blowers and Jorde Hutton in a 10 a.m. first round doubles confrontation while Worthington’s Andrew Johnson and Carter Lindner tangle with David Turlington and Nico Villarraga of Rochester Lourdes in another 10 a.m. start. Second round matches continue on Thursday, with the finals set for Friday.
Luverne’s first team opponent is the 2013 Class A runner-up. The Blake School, which opens today with an 8 a.m. match against Mound Westonka, defeated Breck 6-1 in last year’s Class A championship match.
Blake is the top-ranked Class A team heading into the 2014 tourney. Rochester Lourdes is No. 2 and Breck is No. 3. Luverne was tied for 10th with St. Peter in the latest Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association state rankings released May 19.
For Johnson and Lindner, Thursday’s action will mark the second consecutive year together at the state tournament. They weren’t able to win a match at state last June, but they did win a set. Today, a little bit older and perhaps a little bit wiser, they’re hoping to achieve their first match victory. They’ll have their work cut out for them in their opener against Turlington and Villarraga. Both juniors, Turlington is the sixth-rated individual in the Class A state rankings, and Villarraga is rated No. 8.
Johnson and Lindner are very solid tennis players, however. Lindner, a senior, posted an 11-3 record this spring competing in No. 1 singles. Johnson, a junior, was 13-1 at No. 2 singles with his only loss coming on a day where he defaulted due to heat exhaustion.
Worthington head coach Mike Marquardt said Monday that both of his state tourney entrants are excellent at serving and with groundstrokes, and they know that to win at state you “can’t punch a time clock.” Said Marquardt: “If you’re going to make things happen, then you have to take it to ‘em.”
Johnson and Lindner have done that throughout the season. “They’re very familiar with each other, even though they didn’t play together for much of the season. And they’re very intelligent,” Marquardt said. “I think they’re able to focus better than they did last year. They’re more patient. They know how to set up points. They’re not as rushed as they used to be.”
The rubberized indoor courts at Reed-Sweatt provide interesting contrast to the cement surfaces that characterize most regular season matches. Marquardt said his duo won’t get to practice on the courts until Wednesday night, and then for only about an hour. Their next access on the Reed-Sweatt courts will be for warmups prior to their first match.
Luverne’s doubles team of Vajgrt and Wohnoutka defeated Johnson and Lindner for the Section 3A championship last week, 7-5, 6-2. Vajgrt competed in state doubles last year with his older brother, Joey, and the twosome lost both their matches there.
The Luverne team is 15-2 under coach Greg Antoine, and this year’s state tournament berth is its fifth straight. The Cardinals finished 18-2 last year, losing in the state tournament 4-3 to Mound Westonka and 7-0 to Rochester Lourdes.