SECTION 3A TENNIS: Cards fly to stateREDWOOD FALLS — The eyes of the crowd did not go back and forth in the usual tennis fashion with winds howling at the Section 3A championship Tuesday at Redwood Falls.
REDWOOD FALLS — The eyes of the crowd did not go back and forth in the usual tennis fashion with winds howling at the Section 3A championship Tuesday at Redwood Falls.
The eyes of the crowd fluttered up and down along with the dancing ball, but the eyes of Luverne’s boys’ tennis squad, as they have been all season, remained focused on taking care of business.
No Cardinal yelled, celebrated or really even smiled after clinching a state berth with a 7-0 win over Worthington in the championship. A few held up four fingers to one another to signal they had clinched the section championship, but outside of that, it was as if Luverne (18-2) just had another day at the office.
“I think we’re just so focused on what we have to do,” Luverne’s No. 1 singles player Joey Vajgrt said. “Once we knew we clinched it, I think we lost some motivation, but it still feels great.”
The calm reaction to victory doesn’t mean knocking off a conference rival in the section championship for the third straight season isn’t enjoyable for Luverne.
“It never gets old,” Luverne coach Greg Antoine said. “What gets old is when you miss out on going to state year after year.
“That’s when you learn how much getting to state means; when you miss out on it.”
Behind pitch black sunglasses, Vajgrt kept his cool at No. 1 singles, even after going down 3-2 in the third set versus WHS’s Dan Wetering after over two hours of tennis had been played.
Vajgrt took the set and took No. 1 singles with a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 win.
“I don’t get emotional,” Vajgrt said. “It’s not the way that I play tennis.
“It was an epic match. It was hot, windy and we had to battle. It was just epic.”
Luverne may have been all business, but for Wetering there was nothing more personal than facing the Cardinals. Wetering was part of the last Trojan team to go to state and had seen Luverne win a section championship over WHS for three years.
With his teammates falling in matches around him, signaling the end of a section championship dream, Wetering took the second set — the first set he’d beaten Vajrt all season in this their third meeting — and took a lead in the tiebreaker.
A cramp brought Wetering crumbling to the ground, with Vajgrt holding a 5-3 lead in the tiebreaker. Considering neither player was going to let the coaches end the game after the second set, with LHS having already clinched, a cramp wasn’t going to stop the senior from finishing.
Wetering may have fallen in the match, but he stood tall after it.
“It’s my senior season and I wasn’t going to go out with any regrets,” Wetering said. “I was going to give it everything I had.
“I wasn’t going to go down.”
Wetering had no regrets in the match and none for the WHS’s 13-3 season.
“We had three losses on the season, all to Luverne,” Wetering said. “We had a really successful season and it’s because guys stood up.
“This year, in particular, the guys put in the time and really cared. We made it to our fourth consecutive section title because guys stay motivated. Just because you don’t win doesn’t mean you didn’t have a successful year.”
Wetering’s coach echoed his sentiments.
“We’ve been knocking on the door for state, but, unfortunately Luverne didn’t answer it,” WHS coach Mike Marquardt said. “The score doesn’t show how close things were.
“Luverne is a strong team and we’ll meet them again.”
At No. 1 doubles, Scott Nelson and Blake Ziegler took the rubber match of the season versus WHS’s Jonah Oberloh and Matt Sorensen 6-0, 6-2.
“It’s always a good match with Worthington,” Ziegler said. “They are always ready to play us.
“It was the third time we played (Oberloh and Sorensen) and we split the first two. We just played up to our ability a little more.”
For Nelson, getting to state is a goal moreso than a surprise.
“Our goal every year is to keep improving and get to state every year,” Nelson said with no hint of emotion behind a pair of sunglasses. “We like to keep things kind of calm.
“We’ll celebrate later. We hit our spots and were able to get a win.”
There was a lot of déjà vu for the Trojans, as it was their third time falling to LHS 7-0 this season.
“Luverne has always been a rivalry of ours,” Sorensen said. “Their whole lineup is solid and we just couldn’t finish our matches today.”
To round out singles, Dustin Deutsch knocked off WHS’s Lance Homan 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2 singles, Jonny Vajgrt beat WHS’s Travis Vuong 6-1, 6-3 at No. 3 singles and LHS’s Andrew Jelken beat A.J. Hayenga 6-2, 7-6 (8-6).
The Trojans continued to fight, as No. 2 and No. 3 doubles each went to a third set, even with Luverne having long clinched the championship. The Cardinals finished up the sweep, as Ethan Johnson and Nathan Stensland-Bos knocked off Andrew Johnson and Carter Lindner 6-4, 6-7 (7-4), 7-5) at No. 2 doubles and Austin Stroeh and Matt Arends defeated Dillon Pedersen and Ben Doeden 6-4, 6-7 (9-7), 7-5.
Luverne heads to Minneapols June 5 for the state tournament with the expectations of being more than just qualifiers.
“It’s hard to beat somebody three times in one year,” Antoine said. “It’s fun to play Worthington and we always have tough battles.
“It’s a whole different ballgame when we go to state because the kids play tennis all year. I’ve never won a game up there, but to get to state is an accomplishment.”
Joey Vajgrt wants more than to just get there.
“We want to make a run,” Vajgrt said. “We’re sick of losing every match.
“We’re hoping to get some wins.”
LHS sweeps YME in semifinals
Luverne cruised in its semifinal match versus Yellow Medicine East, as the Cardinals swept Yellow Medicine East 7-0.
Deutsch was able to check something off of his tennis bucket list, as he didn’t give up a point at No. 2 singles, defeating Todd Nowacki 6-0, 6-0.
“Never had a golden set before, so that was kind of cool,” Deutsch said. “We just need to continue to stay focused.”
With a trip to the section championship on the line, LHS played with a silent confidence.
“Nerves didn’t come into play,” said Stensland-Bos, who took down David Nowacki and Ethan Ator, along with Johnson, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 doubles. “Wind tends to make teams even, but we know we have to win section and we’re confident in our abilities, both as a doubles team and our team as a whole.”
Although, the Cardinals have just two seniors, with two consecutive section championships heading into Tuesday, the team has veteran experience.
“After being here for three years, we know what to do,” Johnson said. “It’s ingrained in us by now.”
The Cardinals were perfect at singles, as Joey Vajgrt beat Grant Elliot 6-0, 6-0, Jonny Vajgrt beat Shane Nokleby 6-0, 6-0 and Jelken capped the sweep with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Christian Garding 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 singles, respectively.
In doubles’ action, Nelson and Ziegler won No. 1 doubles 7-5, 6-3 over Tyler Kotlowski and Clinton Repsher and Stroeh and Arends defeated Carter Iverson and Brandon Repsher at No. 3 doubles for the Cardinals.
WHS take down Montevideo 4-3
The Trojans wanted Luverne and they wanted Luverne quickly.
As soon as Doeden and Vuong defeated Adam Peters and Jason Neville 6-0, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles, Pedersen and Hayenga defeated Kurt Baldwin and Blake Jorgensen 6-4, 6-0 at No. 3 doubles, Johnson defeated Sahnje McGonigle 6-1, 6-2 at No. 4 singles and Homan defeated Alex Carlbom 6-2, 7-5 at No. 2 singles for WHS, the Trojans forfeited the remaining three matches to prepare for the Cardinals.
Vuong and Doeden made quick work at No. 2 doubles, although the two have only been a team for a couple meets.
“This is probably our second or third match playing together,” Doeden said. “It was a little scary at first, but it’s turned out pretty good.”
Vuong had bounced around all season, so he was used to the change.
“I never know where I’m going to be in the lineup,” Vuong said. “It’s tough to work with in the beginning, but you get used to having a new partner.
“Today we were both communicating well. It’s all about communication. Without communication, you’re doomed, but our team has that.”