Long before the season even started, Forest Lake knew it would face a significant hurdle in its attempt to defend the Section 7AA tennis title. Joining the section this spring was Elk River, which placed fourth at the team state tournament in 2011.
The section tournament played out as predicted last week, and the Rangers and Elks squared off in the finals. Elk River, the top seed in the south sub-section, has been ranked No. 1 in the state much of the year. Forest Lake, the south sub-section’s second seed, came into the match unranked and carrying a record of 12-6.
Rangers coach Greg Patchin tweaked his lineup as far as he could for last Tuesday’s showdown and the defending section champs did not go down without a fight.
“This was a fun, exciting match and for about 20 minutes it looked like we had the No. 1 team in the state on the ropes,” Patchin said.
In the end, the Elks prevailed 6-1, but the match was much closer than the score indicated. At one point, Forest Lake was up at set at No. 1 singles, had taken control of the second set after losing the first at No. 1 doubles, and had forced sets into tiebreakers at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles.
However, both the No. 2 team of Zack Decker and Hunter Shortly and the No. 3 team of Nate Riedeman and Zak Buckley lost the tiebreakers and fell in straight sets.
“Unfortunately, our season woes in tiebreakers continued as we lost both by the narrowest of margins in both matches,” Patchin said. “Top teams win tiebreakers and we just didn’t – all season.”
Meanwhile, Austin Riedeman, Austin Morris and Sam Hamilton lost quick matches at the second, third and fourth singles positions, respectively, against Elk River’s loaded lineup.
With the match determined, Patchin retired Toby Boyer after he dropped the second set at No. 1 singles. The move was made to conserve the ninth-grader’s energy for the final rounds of the subsequent individual section meet.
Dusty Boyer and Ryan Renard went on to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles.
Forest Lake advanced to the section final by topping Hibbing 4-3 earlier last Tuesday. The Rangers employed their regular, singles-heavy lineup and cruised at those four positions.
A 6-4, 6-0 win at the fourth slot by senior Nate Riedeman sealed the team’s win.
“Nate Riedeman played his best match of the year and took all the stress off the match,” Patchin said.
Dusty Boyer, Toby Boyer and Decker lost a combined four games in sweeping the top three spots.
Three on to state
Dusty Boyer’s march to state history remains on track following his fifth consecutive section singles title, but he won’t be alone in his quest to win state. Toby Boyer and Decker swept through a loaded doubles bracket last Wednesday.
The singles field provided no resistance to the elder Boyer. The three-time-defending state champion beat Austin Stefanich of Grand Rapids-Greenway 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals, then took out Isaiah Meyerchak of Princeton 6-1, 6-1.
Boyer will take his perfect record into state, and he is favored to win an unprecedented fourth championship. His title defense begins against Hopkins sophomore Manfred Barrios at 8 a.m. Thursday, June 7, at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center.
Those expected to provide the stiffest competition to the Nebraska signee include Eden Prairie senior Scott Elsass and Rochester Mayo senior Thomas Nath. The bracket is set up so that Boyer could face Nath in the semifinals and Elsass in the finals.
If their performance at sections is any indication, Forest Lake’s doubles duo may have as good of a chance at the state title as anyone. Toby Boyer and Decker, seeded No. 2 in the south sub-section, came away unscathed from an extraordinarily competitive section bracket. They won a hard-fought semifinal against Andover’s Bobby Munoz and Grant Johnson 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.
In the finals, they faced Mitchell Brandell and Ryan Ness, the top-seeded duo from Elk River which reached the state consolation finals in 2011. The Rangers dropped the first set, 4-6, but rallied to win the final sets 6-2, 6-4.
Boyer and Decker open the round of 16 at 10 a.m. Thursday against Kishore Damodaran and Ty Young of Mahtomedi.
The second round of singles action starts at noon with second-round doubles play following at 2 p.m. The individual state tournament wraps up tomorrow, June 8.