WORTHINGTON -- Head coach Mike Marquardt knew his Worthington Trojans boys tennis team would be good this year.
“It’s nice to know that. But then, to show it and have players believe in it,” he said.
Potential is just a word. But the Trojans have cashed in on their potential during the regular season, and now -- with the Section 3A team tournament about to start on Monday -- they have a chance to make history.
Luverne has won nine consecutive section boys tennis tournaments. But the Cardinals are the underdogs this year. Worthington has beaten every Section 3A opponent it has played this spring, including Luverne. And it is WHS entering post-season play as the No. 1 seed, relegating Luverne to No. 2.
At 4 p.m. Monday, Worthington will host MACCRAY in a first-round tournament match. Meanwhile, Luverne hosts Yellow Medicine East, Montevideo hosts Redwood Valley and Pipestone Area hosts Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd. The tournament concludes Tuesday with the semifinals and finals at Redwood Falls, and the champion moves on to the Minnesota state team tournament beginning June 4 at the Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center in Minneapolis.
Luverne’s quest for a 10th straight state tournament berth would qualify as an upset this year, but the Cardinals’ 5-2 regular season loss to the Trojans was highlighted by two tight, three-set matches. Both of them went Worthington’s way.
“It could have been 4-3 Luverne,” recalled Marquardt.
Old war horses don’t give up easily. So there’s little doubt the Cardinals would like a rematch against WHS, though veteran Luverne head coach Greg Antoine is making no predictions. It’s not even certain Luverne and Worthington will meet in the tournament, he said, citing Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, Montevideo and Pipestone Area as teams capable of pulling off a surprise.
Should the Cards and Trojans meet next week, however, Antoine points to an important difference between the two teams. Luverne has four freshmen in its lineup, and Worthington is an experienced outfit. The Trojans are not likely to get panicked with a state tournament trip on the line, he said.
Marquardt would seem to agree. “We’ll just have to execute the way we have in the past, and we’ll be fine. The team has always felt very comfortable, very confident where we could be.”
Singles is where Worthington especially shines. Blaine Doeden is a senior with state individual tournament experience already under his belt. Sullivan Merrigan, Kipton Jenson and Cade Lindner have also won with convincing regularity in the regular season.
Antoine said that his athletes will have to become more aggressive, including coming to the net more often to control points, if they are to knock off any of the Trojans’ singles players.
“I really do think we’re playing a little better than when we played Worthington (in the regular season),” said the coach. “We’re right there with ‘em. We’re very comparable. They have more experience.”
On his part, Marquardt indicates a great deal of respect for the Cardinals and what they’ve been able to accomplish over the last nine years. They’ve not only been to state, he said, but they’ve represented the section well when they’ve been there.
The Trojans will be ready on Monday, he predicted.
“I don’t think there’s anything we haven’t prepared for,” said the head Trojan.