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Section 3A Tennis: Luverne heading to state with win over spirited Worthington

REDWOOD FALLS -- The top-seeded and second-seeded boys tennis teams in Section 3A met for the championship here Tuesday, and it ended in a sweep. No. 1 Luverne dispatched No. 2 Worthington 7-0.

There were a few close matches. The Cardinals haven't had a lot of those this spring. But they won them all to advance to the state team tournament for the fourth year in a row.

"We were seeded No. 1 and we played like it," said LHS head coach Greg Antoine in an e-mail addressed to the Daily Globe. "We knew the pressure was on us because we were 'supposed' to win. I just told the team that no one person 'had to win' in order for us to go to state. We could get wins from any and every position, so that really took a lot of pressure off of each player."

With 7-0 victories Tuesday over Montevideo in the semifinals and over Worthington in the finals, Luverne improved to 18-0 for the season. But not all of their individual triumphs over the Trojans were easy.

A case in point: No. 1 singles. The Cardinals' top player, defending section champion Joey Vajgrt, has been outstanding all season. But he was pushed by the Trojans' Ben Doeden, a junior who was inserted into the first singles spot by WHS head coach Mike Marquardt to shake up the lineup.

Vajgrt won the first set 6-0, but Doeden came back to win the second set 7-6 (7-4 tiebreaker) before succumbing in the third, 3-6.

"Joey ran into a very determined Ben Doeden," said Antoine. "Ben really pushed Joey to the limit by winning the second set but couldn't keep it up in the third set. ... Ben played a whale of a match against him."

At No. 2 singles, Luverne's Jonny Vajgrt defeated Worthington's Isaac Houselog 6-0, 6-0. The Cards' No. 3 singles player, Dustin Deutsch, topped the Trojans' Bryan Doeden 6-0, 6-0. And at No. 3 singles, Luverne's Andrew Jelken shut out the Trojans' Levi Blanchard 6-0, 6-0.

The Cardinals met more resistance in all three doubles matches. Their No. 1 doubles team of Scott Nelson and Blake Ziegler defeated Worthington's Carter Lindner (who moved to doubles Tuesday after having played No. 1 singles for most of the year) and Andrew Johnson 6-3, 6-4. At No. 2 doubles, Ethan Johnson and Zach Gillette defeated Worthington's A.J. Hayenga and Dillon Pedersen 6-4, 6-3. And Luverne's No. 3 doubles team of Matt Arends and Erik Wohnoutka topped Worthington's Nick Newman and Kody Honius 6-4, 6-0.

"Our doubles really had to step it up at each level to get the win," Antoine said. "I heard several times from my doubles teams that it was the toughest match of the year."

Worthington advanced to the championship match with a 4-3 victory earlier in the day against MACCRAY.

Section 3A tennis players will be back in action Thursday in Redwood Falls for the first round of individual competition. Finals are slated for next week Tuesday.