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Boys Tennis: Cardinals solidify their status as section contender

Zach Wosepka serves the ball in the first set during Monday night's 5-2 Alexandria boys tennis win over Brainerd. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)1 / 5
Pieter Mulder returns the ball in his second set during Monday night's 5-2 Alexandria boys tennis win over Brainerd. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)2 / 5
Hunter Croonquist serves the ball during Monday night's 5-2 Alexandria boys tennis win over Brainerd. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)3 / 5
Eli Simonson returns the ball with a backhand during Monday night's 5-2 Alexandria boys tennis win over Brainerd. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)4 / 5
Gannon Lueck reaches out for the ball during Monday night's 5-2 Alexandria boys tennis win over Brainerd. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)5 / 5

The Alexandria boys tennis team took down the defending Central Lakes Conference and Section 8AA champions Monday afternoon.

The Cardinals beat the Brainerd Warriors 5-2 — further solidifying what has been a breakout season and their presence as a section tournament contender.

"It had been a few years since we beat these guys," Alexandria head coach Dave Ronning said. "It feels great to get a win like this on senior night. We had seven seniors in the starting lineup today, and I thought they played great."

The Cardinals never left any doubt from the get-go against the Warriors. In five matchups, Alexandria took the first set.

"When we are able to get good starts like that it gives us good chances to win," Ronning said. "We beat a really good team this afternoon, and it's a big win heading into another matchup with Brainerd on Thursday."

After the first three matches were completed, the Cardinals found themselves down 2-1. Brainerd took the top singles and doubles matchups.

"We know what kind of guys this team brings in," senior JJ Foster said. "(Brainerd) is good, so it takes a team effort to win these."

With the final three matches still to be decided, the score was tied 2-2. Jacob Partington and Pieter Mulder won their doubles match to gain Alexandria's third point. With two tightly contended single matches to play, the Cardinals were in the driver's seat.

Foster's singles win was the fourth point Alexandria needed to secure another victory. Alex Jost and Gannon Lueck also won their singles match-ups.

The Alexandria two and three doubles pairings had impressive performances. Partington and Mulder beat Clay Jambor and Evan Storbakken 6-4, 7-5. Chris Bienusa and Andrew Wegner paired together for just the second time this season and only lost five games. They beat Noah Spitzley and John Pecarich, 6-3, 6-2.

"I think we work pretty well together out there," Partington said. "We are kind of the younger guys on the team, but Pieter and I played really well today and it always feels pretty great to get a win."

Mulder and Partington not only see this season as an opportunity to make a postseason run, but also a chance to learn from a loaded senior class.

"It's nice to know that they always have our backs. They're always supporting us," Mulder said. "Jacob and I have been on this team for a couple of years, so we've become close with a lot of these guys. This season has been a lot of fun for all of us so far."

Alexandria has perhaps the most important match of its season Thursday afternoon. The Cardinals will face off against Brainerd for the second time this week to see who will earn the top seed in the north sub-section. The win on Monday moved them to 19-4 overall with a 9-2 conference record.

"I think today will give our guys a lot of confidence," Ronning said. "We haven't played a ton on these courts this season with the weather. We've only had three practices on our home court all season and with a big day coming this Saturday, today was important."

Alexandria will host the north subsection team tournament Saturday afternoon. Moving forward, the Cardinals are going to keep practicing what they've been emphasizing — working as a unit.

"We've emphasized encouragement all year," Foster said. "Picking a guy up when he needs it. Having each other's backs. We need to keep doing that."

ALEXANDRIA 5, BRAINERD 2

SINGLES- No. 1 - Patrick Moraghan (B) def. Eli Simonson 6-3, 6-1; No. 2- JJ Foster (A) def. Garrett Goeden 6-3, 6-4; No. 3- Alex Jost (A) def. Keenan Hodge 6-1, 7-6 (3); No. 4- Gannon Lueck (A) def. Beck Barber 6-3, 6-3;

DOUBLES- No. 1- Ian Aadland - Layton Rivard (B) def. Hunter Croonquist - Zach Wosepka 6-4, 6-2; No. 2- Jacob Partington - Pieter Mulde (A) def. Clay Jambor - Evan Storbakken 6-4, 7-5; No. 3- Chris Bienusa - Andrew Wegner (A) def. Noah Spitzley - John Pecarich 6-3, 6-2;

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