Ranger tennis ends 2014 season

The Forest Lake boys tennis team closed its season last week by falling to eventual section champs Elk River in the Section 7AA quarterfinals.

The fourth-seeded Rangers beat fifth-seeded Grand Rapids on May 20, 5-2, before losing to the Elks, 6-1. Junior Toby Boyer and sophomore Ross Schultz earned a 6-4, 6-1 win at No. 1 doubles.

Forest Lake ended the year with an overall record of 6-11 and went 2-6 in the Suburban East Conference.

Boyer defended his section championship with another first-place finish in Section 7AA singles and will head to the state tournament with hopes to return to the finals and avenge a close title-match loss in 2013. The junior has been ranked both No. 1 and 2 in the state this season but enters the tournament as the No. 2 seed. The reigning state champion, senior Joey Richards of Minnetonka, is No. 1.

In doubles play at the individual section tournament, senior Sam Hamilton and junior Brendan Babcock beat Princeton in the first round 7-6, 6-4, then fell 6-1, 6-1 to a fourth-seeded Chisago Lakes duo.

Head coach Greg Patchin said he will miss the positive attitude brought to the court by Hamilton, who was the team’s captain this season.

“He has a good attitude and is a tremendous leader,” Patchin said. “He is a three-year letterwinner and does a nice job in the classroom as well, so it was nice to have him here.”

Sophomores Hunter Shortly and Noah Alm faced Cloquet-Esko-Carlton in the first round and won, 6-1, 6-1, but ran into a tough Elk River team and lost 6-2, 6-2.

Patchin said both duos competed tough this year but ran into issues with consistency. Patchin has high hopes for the returning sophomores Alm and Shortly.

“Hunter has the skill set to play at No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles, and there are days when he’s good, he’s really good, but some days he’s inconsistent,” Patchin said. “But he’s a sophomore, so he’s still growing and learning. He had a better season than last year; he just let a few matches get away from him and he’d be the first to admit it.”

Other than Boyer’s undefeated record on the squad, Shortly had the top individual season record of 14-12. Alm was 12-14 on the year, a solid record for a late addition to the sport.

“He just needs to hit more balls,” Patchin said. “This spring hurt us and he doesn’t lift a racquet during basketball season, and that’s OK. In May he did well and is showing signs of good play. He just has athleticism you can’t teach.”

Sophomore Sam Bostrom went 12-12. The head coach said Bostrom will be “really good once he levels his game and learns to stay sharp.”

Despite injury this season, ninth-grader Ben Bowes went 9-8 and sophomore Ross Schultz went 9-7. By season’s end, Patchin said both will be forces next year if they can stay healthy.

The Rangers will return nine letterwinners next season.

“Next year we should be good,” Patchin said. “If we have a good spring and get the guys on the court in the summer, we could be in the mix for the top half of the conference and maybe even higher in the section.”

As for Boyer, the singles player kicks off of the Class AA state tournament with an 8 a.m. match Thursday, June 5 against sophomore Lucas Conboy of St. Cloud Tech at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota.