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Tennis: Reloaded Alexandria team off to 4-2 start entering the week

The Cardinals are excited to have their season going despite the difficult weather early in the spring as this group tries to sustain a winning culture created over the last few years.

Pieter Mulder and Blake Svee
Alexandria senior Pieter Mulder, left, and sophomore Blake Svee share a laugh during their first doubles match in a 6-1, 6-3 win over Crookston on April 9, 2022. Mulder and Svee went 2-0 while playing together at No. 1 doubles on Saturday.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA — It took some patience and shoveling off snow on parts of the courts at Alexandria Area High School in preparation for the home opener on Saturday, but the boys tennis program for the Cardinals got in a quad under cool but sunny conditions.

Alexandria went 2-1 at the meet with a 5-2 win over Crookston and a 6-1 win over Osakis. Monticello took a 5-2 final in the battle of two Section 8AA teams.

Through six matches entering this week, the Cardinals are 4-2. It’s the start of a season where Alexandria has many new athletes to mix into the varsity lineup after the program made back-to-back section championship matches, taking second in 2021 after winning the 8AA title in 2019. The 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I know there’s a lot of guys who have a lot of potential,” Alexandria senior Pieter Mulder said. “A lot of the guys who are playing varsity have just been on the verge for the last few years, so they’re excited to play and get better. I’m really excited.”

Pieter Mulder
Alexandria senior Pieter Mulder reacts quickly at the net to put away a shot at first doubles on April 9, 2022. Mulder is back this season as a player with a huge amount of varsity experience after playing since his freshman year in 2019.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Mulder was a big piece of both of those 2019 and 2021 teams. He enters this spring as a co-captain looking to lead the way with fellow senior Brennan Lattimer. Both of those guys have an understanding of what that role means after serving as captains for the Alexandria boys hockey team this winter too.

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“Me and Latty, we’ve got a good tandem going,” Mulder said. “We have a lot of chemistry from hockey. We kind of have our own roles, and there’s definitely some other leaders on the team too. Like (senior) Gabe Evink. For me to be at the No. 1 doubles spot again, I feel confident that I’ll pick up a lot of wins and help the team win. It’s ultimately about the team, so we got to get everyone else winning too.”

Mulder went 3-0 on Saturday at that first doubles spot, winning in straight sets in all three matches. He teamed up with Lattimer in a 6-1, 6-1 win over Osakis after sophomore Blake Svee played alongside Mulder in wins over Crookston and Monticello.

Brennan Lattimer
Alexandria senior Brennan Lattimer serves in a second doubles match on April 9, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Svee is part of a group of athletes who have an opportunity to step into big roles for this program. Fellow sophomore Owen Gilbertson is another as he steps up to the No. 1 singles spot after playing lower in the lineup in 2021.

“I definitely feel pretty prepared,” Svee said. “We have a strong team. As everyone plays hard and practices hard, I think we can do good.”

Gilbertson went 1-2 on Saturday with the win coming in a 6-0, 6-4 final against Jack Garmen of Crookston.

That No. 1 singles spot will allow Gilbertson to face good competition all season, and he saw two strong players in Monticello’s Tyler Rousslang and Osakis’ Isaac Maddock on Saturday. Rousslang, who dropped a match against Maddock in their head-to-head contest, won a 6-1, 6-0 final over Gilbertson before Gilbertson battled well against Maddock in a 6-3, 6-2 loss.

Owen Gilbertson
Alexandria sophomore Owen Gilbertson fires a backhand return during his match at No. 1 singles in a 6-0, 6-4 win against Crookston's Jack Garmen on April 9, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Cole Haabala is another sophomore for Alexandria playing high in the lineup. He went 2-1 at second singles on Saturday.

The match against Monticello was an opportunity to see how the Cardinals stacked up against another program in their Section 8AA field. The Magic won some important close matches to come away with the team win, including a three-setter at second doubles.

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Monticello took three of four in singles. Freshman Niklas Cook got Alexandria’s lone win there at fourth singles. Mulder and Svee won in straight sets at first doubles for the Cardinals.

Niklas Cook
Alexandria freshman Niklas Cook serves during a match on April 9, 2022. Cook got a 6-2, 0-6, 10-8 win at fourth singles against Monticello.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

“We were happy for another chance to compete and gain experience over the weekend,” Alexandria first-year head coach Nick Jansen said. “Although the Monticello match was a missed opportunity, (we) learned a valuable lesson about the importance of dictating the style of play and finding ways to be the aggressor in close matches.”

The early part of the season will be a good opportunity for some of Alexandria’s players to get comfortable in new roles. That’s both physically and mentally.

“My main goal is just to get my mind always in it. Not be so hard on myself,” Svee said. “Just stay in the game and have fun.”

Blake Svee
Alexandria sophomore Blake Svee positions himself for a hard return during a match at No. 1 doubles on April 9, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Alexandria has played right with the top teams in the section during the last two competitive seasons, and that winning culture is something this year’s team wants to continue.

“It definitely motivates us,” Svee said. “If you look at (2021 graduated senior Jacob Partington) or any of the other guys, they played super well. We want to be like them. We want to practice hard and play well.”

Bemidji is the defending 8AA champion and is back in a section field that includes 11 total programs in the Lumberjacks, Alexandria, Becker, Big Lake, Detroit Lakes, Monticello, Moorhead, Sartell, Sauk Rapids-Rice, St. Cloud and Willmar.

“There’s definitely some good teams in our section,” Mulder said. “Becker was a young team last year and they have a lot of guys coming back. Bemidji is always good with their foreign exchange students. It will definitely be tough, but if we just keep getting better we’ll definitely have a chance at the end of the year.”

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That’s the goal for this Alexandria team as the season progresses — play hard, grow together and see where things fall by season’s end.

“We play our own style of tennis too,” Mulder said. “We will never quit on a ball, which is something a lot of other teams can’t relate to. That gives us a chance against anybody.”

ALEXANDRIA 5, CROOKSTON 2

SINGLES - No. 1 - Owen Gilbertson (A) def. Jack Garmen, 6-0, 6-4; No. 2 - Cole Haabala (A) def. Erik Coauette, 6-0, 6-1; No. 3 - Reggie Winjum (Crookston) def. Owen Godfrey, 6-4, 6-4; No. 4 - Isaac Thomforde (Crookston) def. Matthew Jiang, 7-6 (4), 6-2

DOUBLES - No. 1 - Pieter Mulder/Blake Svee (A) def. Evan Christensen/Mason Owens, 6-1, 6-3; No. 2 - Ryan Meuwissen/Brennan Lattimer (A) def. Xander Kuchan/Kaleb Armstrong, 6-0, 6-2; No. 3 - Jeff Rodewald/Coltan Koehn (A) def. Tim Brule/Sam Widseth, 6-2, 6-3

MONTICELLO 5, ALEXANDRIA 2

SINGLES - No. 1 - Tyler Rousslang (M) def. Gilbertson, 6-1, 6-0; No. 2 - Ryan Schyma (M) def. Haabala, 6-4, 6-1; No. 3 - Zane Pemberton (M) def. Jiang, 6-1, 6-1; No. 4 - Niklas Cook (A) def. Alex Robeck, 6-2, 0-6, 10-8

DOUBLES - No. 1 - Mulder/Svee (A) def. Daniel Homsombath/Brandon Fyle, 6-3, 6-2; No. 2 - Wyatt Hanson/Hayden Miller (M) def. Lattimer/Meuwissen, 6-3, 5-7, 10-7; No. 3 - William Kuhn/Caleb Kalnbach (M) def. Leo Kompelien/Godfrey, 5-7, 6-2, 10-6

ALEXANDRIA 6, OSAKIS 1

SINGLES - No. 1 - Maddock (O) def. Owen Gilbertson, 6-3, 6-2; No. 2 - Cole Haabala (A) def. Moen, 6-0, 6-0; No. 3 - Blake Svee (A) def. Moore, 6-0, 6-1; No. 4 - Holden Hanson (A) def. Stier, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5)

DOUBLES - No. 1 - Pieter Mulder/Brennan Lattimer (A) def. Gulbranson/Wolf, 6-1, 6-1; No. 2 - Alexandria wins by forfeit; No. 3 - Alexandria wins by forfeit

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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