Cards were eager to build on first-ever trip to state

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Alexandria’s Jacob Partington (left) and Gannon Lueck were both set to be team captains this season after being big parts of the state tournament team for the Cardinals in 2019. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

The Alexandria boys tennis team had plenty of reasons to be excited about getting on the courts again this spring after the program’s first-ever state tournament appearance in 2019.

“I truly believe this team would compete for a conference title and repeat for a section title,” head coach Dave Ronning said.

The Cardinals were not able to start their season yet before the COVID-19 pandemic, so no roster has been set. Ronning knows the guys he expects to lead the way if teams are ever able to resume play this year.

Jacob Partington and Gannon Lueck are team captains, and Andrew Wegner and Pieter Molder return as letter winners too. Nathanial Molder, Joe Westlund, Caleb Strong, Landon Schabel, Owen Gilbertson, Dylan Nelson, Aaron Jost, Brennan Parker, Bryant Johnson, Lucas Skarpness, Tyler Jabbas, Colton Koehn and Brennan Latimer were also set to be contenders for filling out the lineup.

Alexandria also had two foreign exchange students Ronning was excited about having on the team. Alvaro Toloso is someone who the head coach said could possibly contend for the section singles crown.


“With (Toloso), we would be able to do a variety of things with our lineups,” Ronning said. “Stacking doubles, or putting more power into singles. A player like that changes the entire makeup of the team and the options we would have. This group of guys learned a lot from the state team of a year ago, and many of the younger players put in the time in the offseason to fill the spots from the seven starters we lost to graduation.”

Floris Van Halewijn is another foreign-exchange student who played soccer in the fall and was expected to be a part of the tennis team.

Coaches in the area are well aware of the reality surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and that a spring season ever happening is very much in doubt.

“My hopes are that the guys are conditioning and working on their skills in whatever form they can from home,” Ronning said. “We have sent out things every day for them to do. Now the question is are they sticking to the regiment, and how are their spirits? We can send all the virtual motivational speeches and videos and what not, but without seeing them face-to-face, we just don't know where they are at mentally or physically.”

Ronning said he missed the competition of the season, but most of all, he misses the camaraderie that builds within a team by being together.

“Watching players step up and move to new levels of play, learning how to play different strategies, watching them cheer each other on and interact with one another, working together for a common goal,” Ronning said. “What really makes it tough is that we finally got a spring where we wouldn't have had to remove any snow from the courts, and that hasn't happened in the 17 years I have been coaching here in Alexandria.”

(Editor’s note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnesota State High School League spring activities season is suspended through at least May 4. Whether a season will be played at all is very much up in the air, but these spring preview stories are meant to give coaches for area teams an opportunity to share what they think their players might be capable of if any type of season is played this year.)


Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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