Tennis team weathers a slow start
April 22, 2022
The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys tennis team has struggled against rain and snow to sneak in some playing time this spring, postponing four of the first six matches because of bad weather.
With 29 athletes out for the team this season, coach Derek Johnson is anticipating an exciting season. CEC will sport six seniors, one junior, one sophomore, three freshmen and the rest of the squad is made up of seventh- and eighth-graders.
"We have six returning letter winners from last year," Johnson said. "This year a lot of my returning players can play both singles and doubles."
The Lumberjacks will be led by an eighth-grader who will jump into the top singles role this season.
"This year eighth-grader Ethan Lavan will take the helm full-time at No. 1 singles," Johnson said. "He's put in the work in the off season and has improved from last year. His shots have become stronger and his knowledge of the game at his age is extraordinary."
Key to the 'Jacks is the ability to mix and match players on a given night, depending on the competition they are playing.
"I will definitely be switching it up often, depending on the teams we face," said Johnson. "Logan Beck, Tyler Leppi and Jonah Bryan-Nikko will lead our team with their experience. All three of them will be important with us succeeding this year."
While the team will rely on a group of older players, they also have some younger talent that Johnson expects to use what they learned last year, plus the experience they gain this season, to improve by playoff time.
"We have younger returning players in Joey Bender, Ethan Doty, Max Sundquist and Marco Zegan," said Johnson. "I look for those guys to get more experience at the varsity level and expand their game by developing some strategy when they're out on the court. Last year those guys didn't have much experience, and it was a learning process."
On April 7, the Lumberjacks finally got a chance to compete and fell to Rockridge 7-0.
At No. 1 singles, Jared Delich of Rock Ridge defeated Ethan Lavan 6-3, 6-2. At No. 2 singles it was Gavin Benz beating CEC's Logan Beck 6-1, 6-0. CEC's No. 3, Tyler Leppi, fell 6-0, 6-0 to Jake Bradach and at No. 4 singles it was CEC's Joey Bender dropping a 6-0, 6-0 decision to Keegan Ruedebusch.
In doubles action the CEC No. 1 team of Max Sundquist and Ethan Doty fell to Ryan Manninen and Oliver Boyd by scores of 6-1, 6-0. At No. 2 doubles the CEC team of Marco Zegan and Jay Sadler fell 6-0, 6-0 to Owen Buggart and Dawson Ruedebusch. CEC's No. 3 doubles team of Connor Hecht and Sam Painter dropped a 6-0, 6-0 decision to Will Peterson and Grady Dimberio of Rockridge.
"At this point with the weather this spring, I'm just hoping to get practice and matches in," said Johnson. "I don't want to be canceling matches without making them up. I know these kids are itching to get out and play. These first-year middle schoolers need to see what tennis is all about so they can keep the interest in the game. The weather hasn't helped that aspect."
Up until Monday the Lumberjacks have held only two outdoor practices as well as a couple of indoor practices inside in Duluth.
"So far it hasn't been your typical tennis season," Johnson said. "Over the next four weeks we are supposed to have 16 matches, and then team playoffs start in five weeks and individual playoffs in six weeks."
On Tuesday night the Lumberjacks traveled to the indoor courts in Virginia again to take on Rock Ridge and fell by a score of 6-1. The lone CEC win was by the No. 2 doubles team of Ethan Doty and Max Sundquist, who won 3-6, 6-4 and 11-9.