Prep boys tennis: Worthington, Luverne, Pipestone Area all feature experience

WORTHINGTON -- Experience in singles, depth in doubles.That is what Worthington High is looking at as it embarks on the 2016 season, which begins in earnest Tuesday when it travels to Montevideo.Last season, the Trojans were the No. 4 seed in the...

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ZACH HACKER/DAILY GLOBE The Worthington High boys tennis team has four returning letterwinners this spring. They are (left to right): Gage Langerud, Sebastian Licea, Bryan Doeden and Blaine Doeden.

WORTHINGTON - Experience in singles, depth in doubles.
That is what Worthington High is looking at as it embarks on the 2016 season, which begins in earnest Tuesday when it travels to Montevideo.
Last season, the Trojans were the No. 4 seed in the Section 3A Tournament. From that squad they graduated seven seniors, including No. 1 singles player and Class A State qualifier Andrew Johnson along with No. 2 singles Nick Newman. Worthington head coach Mike Marquardt said much of what his team can do this year will depend on how it performs mentally.
“It’s going to depend on so many things,” he said. “Last year we dipped down to fourth in the section when we had been second for a number of years. That might affect the confidence level of the other teams. They’re saying, ‘Hey, we beat Worthington last year and that hasn’t happened in a while.’ It’s up to us to say, ‘That was last year.”
The Trojans welcome back four regulars from last year’s varsity lineup in seniors Bryan Doeden, Gage Langerud, Sebastian Licea and freshman Blaine Doeden. Entering the season, Marquardt expects those four to fill the singles slots in his day-to-day lineup.
Bryan Doeden played mostly third and some second singles in 2015. It was his first year playing on the solo side after teaming with his older brother, Ben, to create a formidable No. 1 doubles pair the season before. Marquardt said having a wealth of experience on both sides of the competition will help him as he moves into the No. 1 singles slot for his senior year.
“That doubles experience for Bryan showed him how to serve and the importance of placing his shots,” the head coach said. “Then, playing singles his junior year allowed him to work on his groundstrokes and covering more ground. Now that he has a full year of doubles and singles, he can mesh that together. I’m really looking forward to watching Bryan’s matches.”
Licea will make the change from doubles to singles this season and is expected to jump into the No. 2 slot. Marquardt said Licea is very fast and has quick hands with a backhand he described as “salty.” Now, he has worked on his forehand and his coach said he is “hitting that unbelievably well.”
The younger of the Doedens, Blaine, played mostly fourth singles for the Trojans as an eighth-grader last season and will move up to the No. 3 position in 2016. Though he took his lumps as a very young varsity player, Marquardt saw tremendous growth and expects that to show this season.
“We learn by our scars and he got a couple, but he dished out a couple, too,” Marquardt said.
Langerud will take the No. 4 singles position and is also making the transition from playing doubles as a junior. Marquardt said his best asset is a great serve that he expects to only get better as the season progresses.
One advantage Worthington has this season in determining an entirely revamped doubles lineup is depth. The Trojans have 30 players on their roster in grades 7-12. With the four singles players in place for the time being, that leaves 26 players - 13 pairs - vying for the three varsity doubles spots. That competition within the team is something Marquardt said is good to have provided the kids can keep the right, team-first mindset.
“Right now all 26 of those guys are thinking about doubles,” he said. “It’s just a matter of figuring out the chemistry part of it, who works well with who and what position would be best for them.”
Heading into the season opener, juniors Jordan Jensen and Brandon Harberts, sophomores Smile Bu, Pokwar Taw, Kyle Janssen and Max Langerud along with eighth-grader Sullivan Merrigan are on the fast track to holding the varsity spots. But all of that is a fluid situation, and having players - including those planning to play singles - with doubles experience will only help.
“There are other guys knocking on the door,” Marquardt said. “If we’re the fourth seed again, there will be three teams ahead of us that might have strength in different areas. We need guys who can play both singles and doubles. We want to get better in both parts of the game so that they can compliment each other.”
Cards, Arrows bring back most of 2015 squads
Luverne and Pipestone Area both bring back nearly everyone from last year’s teams.
The Cardinals welcome back nine of the 10 starters from their Section 3A champion and Class A State Tournament lineup. That roster had plenty of success, earning wins of 4-3 over both Worthington and Montevideo to take the Section 3A title.
Senior Erik Wohnoutka returns after a strong showing in the Class A State Doubles Tournament with now-graduated partner Cory Stroeh. Wohnoutka - who played primarily first singles for Luverne - teamed up with Stroeh from second singles to go 2-2 at state and finish sixth in Class A. He is one of three seniors coming off of starting campaigns in 2015.
Jacob Jarchow played primarily third singles for the Cardinals last season and will likely slide up into the No. 2 slot. Another senior, Tanner Baustian, was paired with junior Isaac Gillette as the No. 3 doubles team. Chris Jelken and Dalton Shoeneman, both juniors, also come back as a formidable foe for any comer after a full season as the Cards’ No. 1 doubles duo.
Trey Baustian held down the No. 4 singles position last year as a freshman and will look for an improved 2016. Mark Robinson and Cade VerSteeg, both sophomores, were paired together as the second doubles squad last year.
Luverne opens the season at 4 p.m. Tuesday at home against Vermillion (S.D.).
Like the Cardinals, Pipestone Area has plenty of experience coming back from a team that took the No. 7-seed into the Section 3A Tournament.
Trase Leuck leads a strong contingency of singles players coming back for the Arrows. The senior spent most of his junior year in the No. 1 singles spot and was seeded fifth in the Section 3A individual tournament.
Their second singles player, Joe Morgan, is also back to resume his role as a senior. Tristen Pals was the Arrows No. 4 singles player as a freshman last year and is back for his sophomore season. Bill Smith (No. 3 singles) is the only regular solo player Pipestone lost to graduation.
On the doubles side, half of the Arrows’ No. 1 doubles team is back with sophomore Noah Onken holding that distinction. His partner, Jacob Gelderman, graduated. He did, however, team up with Cole Onken in the section doubles tournament in what could be a precursor to this season’s lineup.
The second doubles pair of senior Luis Martinez and eighth-grader Jackson Winter are both back for the Arrows. Dalton Pottratz, a freshman, and eighth-grader Noah Everett comprised the Arrows’ regular No. 3 doubles squad.
Pipestone Area travels to Milbank, SD, at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

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