STATE TENNIS: LHS looks to change history after going 0-4 in last 2 state tripsLUVERNE — Losing is something no athlete or team can simply accept or get used to. Luverne’s boys’ tennis squad has won three straight section championships — including this season’s Section 3A championship — meaning the Cardinals will venture to Minneapolis for the Class A State Tournament today at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center for the third year in a row.
LUVERNE — Losing is something no athlete or team can simply accept or get used to. Luverne’s boys’ tennis squad has won three straight section championships — including this season’s Section 3A championship — meaning the Cardinals will venture to Minneapolis for the Class A State Tournament today at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center for the third year in a row.
The Cardinals have come home the last two seasons winless, going 0-4 and not surviving the first day of competition.
When it comes to tennis, it’s impossible to not equate talent with money. The ability to afford year-round tournaments versus the country’s best talent and lessons is an asset not every athlete can obtain. In tennis, not all athletes are necessarily created equal.
After two years of being one and done, Luverne is tired of the excuses.
“We’re tired of losing,” said Joey Vajgrt, Luverne’s No. 1 singles player. “We don’t want to lose out.
“We want to play to our full potential and try to win a match or two.”
Adding to the annoyance of settling for defeat is coming so close to victory. In the consolation bracket last season, Luverne fell 4-3 to St. Peter in the Cardinals’ second match of the day.
With a loss at No. 2 doubles in three sets, Day 2 of the state tournament was literally a set away from the Cardinals.
“It fuels us a lot because we were so close last year and we were really hoping to win,” Vajgrt said. “It’s the state tournament. We’re not talking about just another match. It’s the biggest event of the year.
“You want to give it your all and play to your full potential. That’s all you can do.”
Luverne will take on Rochester Lourdes at 2 p.m. today in its opening match.
“I really don’t know much about Rochester Lourdes,” LHS coach Greg Antoine said. “I do know that they were ranked higher than we were this year and that they have a tough schedule and a tough section.
“We know they are going to be tough.”
Luverne does know that it’s ready to overcome the losing streak at state.
“I think we are a little deeper this year,” Antoine said. “We have a pretty solid lineup, especially since you consider we have some alternates that would or could be on the top 10 of most section teams.
“We also have experience of two state tournaments behind us, so we really know what to expect when we get there.”
With three lineups certified for state and section play, the Cardinals have options of where to place players, but it looks as though they are going to stick with what won them a section championship.
“We will probably go with the same lineup we used in sections, which would be the most comfortable,” Antoine said.
This would put Joey Vajgrt at No. 1 singles, where he is 18-4 on the season, and Dustin Deutsch at No. 2 singles, where Deutsch is 15-2. Deutsch has also been apart of the last two trips to state for the Cardinals.
“I think we have one of our best teams ever,” Deutsch said. “The competition is always tough, but I think the guys we have right now want to play really well at state.
“We want to do the best Luverne has ever done at state.”
If Luverne sticks with its section lineup, Jonny Vajgrt and Andrew Jelken will anchor singles at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. Jonny Vajgrt was 18-4 and Jelken was 13-5 at singles during the season.
In doubles, Scott Nelson and Blake Ziegler will take No. 1 doubles, Nathan Stensland-Bos and Ethan Johnson will take No. 2 doubles and Matt Arends and Austin Stroeh will take No. 3 doubles. Nelson and Ziegler were 15-7, Stensland-Bos and Johnson were 14-3 and Arends and Stroeh were 12-0 as duos this season.
It’s a lineup that got the Cardinals to the state tournament and it’s a lineup Antoine trusts.
“We just have to do the best we can with what we have,” Antoine said. “We just don’t have the court time that the city schools get to use. We can’t afford to in a school our size.”
In sports, normally, David doesn’t beat Goliath. This doesn’t mean facing Goliath is not commendable. In the realm of high school sports, there’s nothing like going to state, even if it means taking on a seemingly impossible task.
“It never gets old,” 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.”
Vajgrts and Deutsch qualify individually
Joey Vajgrt qualified for state in singles, while Jonny Vajgrt, paired with Deutsch, qualified in doubles.
The tournament for individual play will take place Thursday.
According to Joey Vajgrt, luck was on his side in his first-round draw, as he will take on Logan Engelstad, of Thief River Falls. Joey Vajgrt saw Engelstad play in LHS’s 7-0 loss to TRF in the first round of last season’s team tournament and lost to him in a head-to-head match last season.
“It’s pretty random that I drew a guy I played,” Joey Vajgrt said. “I’m hoping to play him better than I did last year.
“It’s random that I drew him, but it’s good for me because I have an idea of how to play him.”
Jonny Vajgrt and Deutsch only have 17 doubles matches this season with Jonny Vajgrt going 6-1 at doubles and Deutsch going 8-2.
“You really just try to keep your head in the game,” Deutsch said. “I just go out there and try and hit shots and just try to play my best, but with doubles, I make sure my partner keeps his head in the game.”
Deutsch and Jonny Vajgrt will take on the Mound Westonka duo of Arend Turner and Luke Moorhead.
Daily Globe Sports Editor Chris Murphy may be reached at 376-7328.