Rangers begin section title defense

Tennis team aces first-round match against St. Francis

It’s playoff time in the prep tennis scene and Forest Lake has a section title to defend.

The Ranger boys, seeded second in Section 7AA, took the first step to that end with a 7-0 sweep of St. Francis at their home court this Monday.

Going into this Tuesday’s second-round match against third-seed Chisago Lakes, Coach Greg Patchin said he knows it will be a tough road if his team is to return to the state meet.

“Chisago poses a threat to our lower positions and if we are lucky enough to get by them, Hibbing with a full lineup will be tough as well,” he said. “No. 1 Elk River is the overwhelming favorite with their experience and senior leadership.”

The Elks faced Andover in the other South Sub-Section match on Tuesday. The winners will be part of the section final four in St. Francis next Tuesday.

Forest Lake finished the regular season with a record of 9-6. The Rangers closed the schedule with a 7-0 win at Andover last Wednesday. Zack Decker prevailed in three sets at No. 3 singles, as did Austin Morris and Sam Hamilton at No. 3 doubles.

Individual brackets

The individual section tournament gets underway Thursday, May 24, in St. Francis. Ranger senior Dusty Boyer has a first-round bye as the top seed in the singles flight. The three-time defending state champion seeks his fifth straight section title.

Senior Nate Riedeman is seeded 10th and faces a seventh-seeded opponent from St. Francis.

The doubles flight should feature dogged competition for the two tickets to state. Patchin paired Decker, a senior, with ninth-grader Toby Boyer, who narrowly missed advancing to state in singles last season after qualifying in singles in 2010.

The top Ranger duo is seeded second. Elk River’s Mitchel Brandell and Ryan Ness earned the top seed and their teammates, ninth-grade twins Sam and Josh Gearou, are seeded third. The Elk River duos faced each other in the state consolation championship last spring, with the Gearous winning.

Andover’s Grant Johnson and Robert Munoz are also dangerous as the fourth seed.

“The loaded doubles draw could be a preview of the state finals as the top four doubles teams are exceptional,” Patchin said. “Zack and Toby will have their work cut out for them to earn a state tourney berth.”

Seniors Ryan Renard and Zak Buckley form Forest Lake’s other entry. They are seeded eighth and face a ninth-seeded duo from St. Francis.

The individual section finals will be held next Wednesday in St. Francis.