A hometown newspaper with a local office, local owners & lots of local news

Lumberjacks still courting for a win

While wins have been hard to come by in the early part of the season, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys tennis team is suddenly gaining tons of experience after having several earlier matches postponed by weather. This week alone, the Lumberjacks played Hibbing on Monday, then faced Mora Tuesday, followed by Hermantown on Wednesday. They wrapped up the week Thursday against Superior.

On Monday the 'Jacks opened play against a stout Hibbing squad with the Bluejackets prevailing 6-1. The lone CEC win was at No. 1 singles where freshman Ethan Lavan notched an impressive 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (5) win over Hibbing's Drew Anderson.

"Ethan is just an exceptional young player," said head coach Derek Johnson. "He will just get better and better through the years."

CEC did have a strong performance at No. 2 doubles by Noah and Joey Bender, who fell 6-3, 6-2 to the Hibbing duo of Tyler Fisher and Keaton Petrick. Devin Cary also had a good performance for CEC at No. 4 singles but fell 6-2, 6-3 to Christian Dickson. At No. 2 singles, CEC's Marco Zegan lost 6-1 in the first set against Jack Gabardi of Hibbing, but then rebounded in the second set, only to fall 6-4.

At No. 3 singles, CEC's T.J. Sabyan dropped a 6-0, 6-2 decision to Isaiah Hilldenbrand. The CEC No. 1 doubles team of Ethan Doty and Max Sundquist dropped a 6-2, 6-0 decision to Tristan Babich and Cooper Hendrickson, while the CEC No. 3 doubles team of Sam Painter and Tommy Radosevich lost 6-0, 6-2 in their match.

Despite playing better as a team on Tuesday, the Lumberjacks fell 7-0 to the Mora Mustangs. Both Monday's and Tuesday's matches were played in cold conditions with temperatures in the upper 30s.

"The cold definitely slows things down a bit," Johnson said. "I've told the guys they have to make sure they are plenty warmed up and ready to go before their matches."'

Lavan dropped a 6-0, 6-3 decision at No. 1 singles to Max Samson, one of the top-ranked players in the state. At No. 2 singles, Zegan dropped a 6-0, 6-1 decision to Joe Samson and Sabyan lost at No. 3 singles to Chase Axtell. Cary fell at No. 4 singles 6-1, 6-1.

"Marco (Zegan) improved from Monday to Tuesday by better point play and stroke play," Johnson said. "In fact, all the guys improved. We are in a mode where we are playing four games during the week and sometimes two or three matches on Saturday. There isn't a lot of practice time, so you have to learn on the fly."

CEC lost all three doubles, but all of their doubles duos did well despite losing. At No. 1 doubles Ethan Doty and Max Sundquist dropped a 6-2, 6-3 decision. The Benders fell 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 at No. 2 doubles and Painter and Wesley Olon fell 6-2, 6-2 at No. 3 doubles.

"We put the Bender brothers together against Hibbing and there didn't seem to be a lot of energy, but they are skilled so we did the same thing against Mora," Johnson said. "They played much better and gave us a good chance to win that match."

While the team is 0-6 so far this season, Johnson is excited about the future.

"We have had one home practice," said Johnson. "We are still waiting on some kids to step up and we are looking for kids to fill some roles for us. As coaches, we are happy with the effort of all the guys so far."