Tennis: Alexandria boys climb to 11-9 with a road victory over Fergus Falls
Alexandria sweeps doubles matches in win over Fergus Falls
FERGUS FALLS - Amid an unpredictable day of weather, the Alexandria boys tennis team took the journey up I-94 to Fergus Falls and walked away with a 5-2 victory over the Otters after a 3:30 p.m. start time.
“Whenever you can squeeze a match, especially a conference match that you have to make up and are worth points in the conference standings, is huge,” Alexandria head coach Nick Jansen said. “We were very happy to get here a little early and make sure we got it in before the weather hit.”
The Cardinals came in having already beaten the Otters early this season. But this time around, Jansen expected the match to be closer than the 7-0 sweep the Cardinals had over the Otters on April 27, 2022.
“They have a history of having a quality tennis program,” Jansen said. “We knew they were going to be a much-improved team. Teams improve and they showed it. They were able to take a couple of points off of us. But we got the ones we needed when it counted and put ourselves in a good position for Friday against Brainerd, who's at the top of the conference.”
Sophomore Owen Gilbertson, who has been locked in at the No. 1 or No. 2 singles spot for most of this season, reunited with his doubles partner
from last season, Mulder, in Thursday’s match. The pair earned a straight-set win against the team of Reno Schierer and Nick Flugstad at No. 1 doubles.
Gilbertson said that he likes playing in doubles because he and Mulder have familiarity with one another and it helps take the stress off an elbow injury he’s recovering from.
The Cardinals swept the doubles matches as the teams of Ryan Meuwissen/Jeff Rodewald and Coltan Koehn/Leo Kompelien earned straight set wins as well.
Brennan Lattimer and Owen Godfrey picked up singles wins for the Cardinals.
With the regular season beginning to wind down, the Cardinals are focused on playing their best tennis in their biggest matches left on the schedule.
“When you get down to this time in the season, it's not so much about your shots anymore,” Jansen said. “We've had time to groove those, and guys can hit shots at practice. But now, in these matches, whether it's for conference placement, or it's for sections and the chance to go to state, it brings a whole level of pressure that a lot of these guys maybe haven't played with before, especially the younger ones.”
Since the subsection competition begins on May 19, that emphasis on learning how to play with pressure has been heightened and will continue to be heightened until the season's end.
“At practice, we’re playing out some of those pressure points, trying to recreate what they're going to feel in a match when they're playing in a tiebreaker,” Jansen said. “We’re going to see who's going to win the match, who's going to advance into the next round and I think that's where we're looking to grow. That's the message. Are you ready for the pressure? How are you going to handle it?”
Jansen believes that the team can navigate through big matches because of the senior leadership they have.
“We have some great senior leadership from our two captains, Brennan [Lattimer] and Pieter [Mulder], as well as from Ryan Meuwissen, Colton Koehn and Jeff Rodewald,” Jansen said. “And they do things the right way. Our young guys are picking up on that and I think we've got a group of freshmen and sophomores that have responded well to that leadership.”
Alexandria currently has a winning record, 11-9, with Jansen in his first year at the helm.
Freshman Cole Haabala is one of the younger players who are now ramping up for their first postseason push. At No. 1 singles, Habaala fell to Fergus Falls’ Ben Schierer in three sets.
Haabala lost the first set 7-6, bounced back to win the second set 7-5 and forced a tiebreaker set. Schierer eked out the third set win, 10-7.
“I really wanted to win this one and I knew it was going to be kind of a close match,” Haabala said. “He got better and it just didn’t go my way this time. I've really been trying to get my forehand game better. My backhand comes more naturally to me. I think it's maybe from playing hockey and just being a lefty.”
Haabala says one of the team goals this season has been to be known as a positive winning team.
“I feel like we're getting there. We beat some tough teams like the [St. Cloud] Crush,” Haabala said.
Alexandria defeated St. Cloud 5-2 on Tuesday.
That win, along with Thursday’s, has been a boost of confidence for the Cardinals.
“We had a slow start, but after beating St. Cloud, we've got huge momentum to build on,” Gilbertson said. ”We're feeling pretty excited and we’ll see how far we can take it.”
Alexandria’s match against Brainerd on Friday is at home at 4 p.m.