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Cloquet's Lavan splits matches at State

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton tennis player Ethan Lavan continues to make an impression on the statewide tennis scene. After capturing the Section 7A boys tennis title for a second straight season, Lavan played in the Minnesota state tennis tournament at Read-Sweatt Family Tennis Center last week.

"Ethan is just one of those players who don't care how people look at him," said CEC coach Derek Johnson.

Lavan came out in impressive fashion and won his first-round match easily before bowing out in the second round in a tight decision. However, Lavan made an impression by both how he played at the tournament and by how the 10th-grader moves to the beat of his own drummer.

"Prior to the tournament, all 16 qualifiers were out on the court, and there's Ethan walking around in his duck boots," said a laughing Johnson. "He just does his own thing and doesn't worry about anything, and that serves him well when he plays."

Lavan opened with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Jowell Gomez of New London-Spicer in a match that saw him dominate from start to finish.

"He came out with no nerves and just swung freely," said Johnson. "He took care of business and frustrated the other player, and he just breezed into the next round."

Lavan, who entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed, followed his first-round win with a match against No. 5 seed Evan Ritter of Rochester Lourdes.

"We knew from talking to others that Ritter has a big serve and has a big forehand," Johnson said. "We knew it would be a tight game."

Things started well for Lavan, but the first set went to a tie-breaker. At one point, Lavan trailed in the race to 7 points by 6-4 and battled back to win an impressive set 8-6.

"We really thought that after the first set that maybe the other kid would have to change his game, but instead he amped up his hitting and just kept pounding the ball hard," Johnson said. "We just don't see much of that kind of player up north and eventually it was just too much for Ethan to overcome."

Lavan ended up losing the match 7-6, 6-2, 6-1. The loss ended the season for Lavan after another successful run to state.

Lavan was already looking ahead a week later.

"I have a lot of work to do in the off season," he said, when asked what he was taking away from this year's state meet.

"Ethan is a sophomore, so there is more ahead for him," Johnson said. "As he gets older and stronger, he will be a very, very tough player to beat."

Johnson recently informed Cloquet athletic director Paul Riess that he will not be back next season. Johnson has been a coach for both the boys and the girls tennis programs for 12 years and head coach the past 11 seasons.

"It has been a fun run, but I have family obligations that need more of my time now," Johnson said. "I think the program is in great shape, and whoever comes in will have a great bunch of kids to coach, and I wish them luck."