PREP TENNIS: Luverne's Wohnoutka,Graff, Vajgrt qualify for individual state

REDWOOD FALLS -- Before the Section 3A boys' tennis tournament started, the only experience Joel Wohnoutka and Michael Graff had together were a couple of days in practice.

AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE Worthington seniors Mitch Benson (left) returns a shot as his doubles teammate Taylor Wiener looks on during the individual Section 3A tennis tournament on Tuesday in Redwood Falls.

REDWOOD FALLS -- Before the Section 3A boys' tennis tournament started, the only experience Joel Wohnoutka and Michael Graff had together were a couple of days in practice.

By the end, the two were headed to the state tournament.

Wohnoutka and Graff finished as runners-up Tuesday and will join teammate Joey Vajgrt as entries into the state tournament.

"I've never really been there for individuals before, so I'm kind of nervous," Wohnoutka said. "I don't know what it's going to be like."

The two were major contributors to Luverne's team winning Section 3A a week ago. But during the Cardinals' playoff run, the two were both singles players.


"We figured I'm No. 2 singles and Joey was going to play singles and I knew I couldn't beat him," Wohnoutka said. "I figured Jack Hansen would probably be another finalist, so I didn't think I could make it through in singles."

And it was by chance that he was paired with Graff.

"We had a doubles team and a singles spot left over," Wohnoutka said. "Neither of us wanted to play singles, so we just kind of got paired up as doubles."

With no experience together, the two were seeded 13th.

"We felt that the other teams were under pressure because they were supposed to beat us," said Graff, who played doubles one time before sections. "We were the lower seed, so if we lost, that's what was supposed to happen."

Facing the top-seeded Worthington duo of Mitchell Benson and Taylor Wiener in the semifinals on Tuesday, the Cardinal pair came away with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) victory.

"I was kind of excited because I've never played Worthington's first doubles team," Wohnoutka said. "Michael and I were thinking that all we need to do is beat this Worthington team and get to the finals.

"They are a tough team. We played well and worked together and we compliment each other really well."


Benson and Wiener, who were thrown off their game by the move indoors, were then forced to the consolation match.

"I think we were beating ourselves in the head," Benson said. "We played in here a couple years ago and we lost. That influenced our playing ability and we weren't hitting shots."

Meanwhile, Luverne's Nick Sandager and Jonny Vajgrt lost to Montevideo's Dakota Frazier and Charlie Landmark 6-2, 6-3 in the other semifinal.

In singles, Lac qui Parle Valley's Hansen defeated Luverne's Dustin Deutsch 6-1, 6-3 to earn a spot in the finals.

Worthington's Dan Wetering was facing Joey Vajgrt in the other semifinal, and early Wetering had him on the ropes.

"In the first set with Joey I played really well, but I struggled toward the end," Wetering said. "I was actually up 5-4 and I just got tense. I played pretty well and I served well (Tuesday). I was very confident. We had to play indoors and that was a lot different. But everyone had to get used to it."

Joey Vajgrt won the match, 7-5, 6-0 to advance to the finals.

Wetering then defeated Deutsch 6-0, 6-3 to place third.


"I served really well and I just hit my shots and wasn't tense," Wetering said. "I played a lot better the second match."

But he needed Vajgrt to defeat Hansen in order to have a shot at a true second-place match.

"I really wanted Joey to win even though he beat me because then I'd be playing in a true second match, and whoever won that would go to state," Wetering said. "I still have two years to go, so I'm fine with that. It was pretty intense; it was a good match. Both players are really good."

In the finals, Joey took an early lead against Hansen, winning the first set, 6-4.

However, Hansen came back and won the next two sets, 6-4, 6-3.

"I think he's just that good of a player," Joey said. "I played really well and I continued to play well, but he just outplayed me.

"He anticipates really well. He's not the fastest, but he just anticipates where the shots are going to be, which is really tough to play against."

In the doubles' championship, Frazier and Landmark won the first set 6-3.


"I definitely wasn't prepared for it," Graff said. "Playing third singles, nobody serves as hard as they do and nobody hits as hard. But once I kind of got in a flow in the second set, we were able to do it. I think we would have been able to get a set out of them."

In the second set, the Luverne duo played right with them, but lost 7-5 in a tiebreaker.

"They're strong point was their serves," Wohnoutka said. "They had really, really strong serves. We had a hard time returning.

"We decided to have a little fun. We were like, 'We already made it to the finals, let's have a little fun with this.' We kind of pulled through a little more."

The Worthington duo then defeated Sandager and Jonny Vajgrt 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-2) to finish third.

"We were mad and we said that we were going to go out there and just play and have fun," Wiener said. "We kind of took pressure off of ourselves because we didn't think Luverne would beat Montevideo anyway. You play better when you're not thinking."

But since Wohnoutka and Graff finished second, there would be no second-place match.

"It's the second year in a row we've taken third," Wiener said. "We missed it by a game last year and we missed it by a match this year.


"It's pretty tough. I had my heart set on state, especially since we didn't go as a team. The circumstances were a little different inside. It's a lot different playing."

Added Benson: "We've been playing together for five years now and we had high hopes for this year. For one, we didn't go as a team and now we're not going as individuals. It's kind of heartbreaking to tell you the truth."

While Graff and Wohnoutka will likely return to singles when the Cardinals open the state tournament next week, the two still have matches to play together.

"It's actually really fun," he said. "Me and Joel compliment each other well. Joel has a better back play and I have better net play. But we played together well. You don't have to run as much, which is nice. It fits; I like it."

Luverne opens with Section 7 champion Virginia at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. The individual tournament begins on June 10.

"I couldn't have asked for a better end to my senior year," Graff said. "It's going to be nice to continue up at state and get another day with individuals."

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