Doubles team volleys to second at state

Toby Boyer, Zack Decker reach championship match

In Zack Decker’s second appearance at the individual state tournament, the senior teamed up with ninth-grader Toby Boyer to place second in the doubles bracket. Above: Decker sends a shot towards a Minneapolis South foe. (Photo by TLC Digital Images)

Deep in the back of his mind, Greg Patchin must have daydreamed at least once about the possibility of sweeping the individual state tennis meet this year.  With a clear-cut, elite group of three atop his roster, the Forest Lake coach had a tough decision to make when it came time to for section play.

Actually, he left it up to a ninth-grader.

Patchin let his No. 2 singles player, Toby Boyer, choose whether to make a run at the individual state tournament as a singles player or whether to pair with senior Zack Decker to form a dynamic doubles team with the potential to make some noise at state.

Boyer has played singles almost exclusively in his three years on the team, including the individual section meet each of his first two seasons. He made state in 2009, and came a match point away from returning last spring.

Boyer expected to continue in singles this postseason after riding an undefeated record through the regular season. In the end, though, he saw the value for both him and Decker of teaming up.

The move paid off last week at the state tourney. Boyer and Decker advanced to the state championship match and finished as the runners-up. In the finals, the Ranger duo ran into the defending champs from Minneapolis South, senior Luke Elifson and junior Martin Beck.

The Tigers jumped out to take the first set 6-1, but Forest Lake’s team found its game in the second set. Up 5-4, Boyer and Decker had two set points. On one, a South shot clipped the top of the net and fell over for a devastatingly simple winner.

“It kind of took the wind out our sails and boosted the champions to close us out,” Patchin said.

Minneapolis South indeed closed out the set, 7-5, to defend its title. Still, Patchin said his players exceeded even his lofty expectations.

“I was very proud of our second-place finish,” he said. “The returning champions from Minneapolis South were so skilled and experienced that I thought we would probably be beaten in two quick sets… It was very high quality doubles.”

Boyer and Decker opened the tournament with two tough matches. On Thursday morning, they got past Mahtomedi’s Kishore Damodaran and Ty Young 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. That afternoon, the Ranger pair rallied to beat Michael Poeschla and Nicholas Ackerman of Rochester Mayo 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.

On Friday morning, they topped Matthew McNutt and Tim Larson of Bloomington Jefferson 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals.

Decker ends his Ranger career with 83 wins, good for third in school history. That total includes a record of 27-3 this season.