by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Except for Forest Lake’s Boyer brothers, all comers were felled by the Elk River-Zimmerman tennis team Saturday as the Elks opened the season with three victories.
ERZ (the top two players are from Zimmerman) defeated Hibbing and Spring Lake Park each 7-0 and Forest Lake 5-2 in a home quadrangular.
The Elks won impressively over Forest Lake, a team with four returning state qualifiers.
The Rangers got victories from two-time state champion Dusty Boyer and from his brother Toby. They eclipsed ERZ’s eighth-grade prodigies, Josh and Sam Gearou, Dusty beat Josh 6-2, 6-2 at No. 1, and Toby beat Sam 6-4, 6-4, at No. 2.
The Elks ground out two singles wins, by Mitchel Brandell 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 at No. 3, and Ryan Ness 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 at No. 4.
The Elk doubles lineup all won — Zak Steichen and Josh Chuba, Dylan Berger and Jesse Bragg, and Nathan Chanthomontry and Joe Wetherille, at 1-2-3, respectively.
In the Hibbing match, the Elks held out their top four players because Hibbing was missing its top four.
With Josh and Sam Gearou, who won almost all their singles matches last year and went to state in doubles as seventh-graders, at one and two, and with talented juniors Brandell (a fifth-year starter with 88 wins) and Ryan Ness at three and four, the Elks can sweep singles against most opponents.
“Most of the time, yes,” said coach Randy Ronning, “especially at 2-3-4, but not when a team has an elite player at No. 1. Not many teams also have a No. 2 who can also go to state, like Forest Lake does.”
That won’t be the lineup all the time, though. For instance, Ronning likes to put Brandell at one-doubles, too.
“Mitchel would like to play one or two singles, but he hasn’t been able to beat either of the twins,” said Ronning. “He did beat Ryan Ness this year, so he will play third singles or first doubles.”
Ness is the team’s lone three-sport guy — also an all-state soccer player, and a starter at guard in basketball.
Help from Dixie
Jesse Bragg, a junior, moved to Elk River last June from North Carolina, where incidentally one of the most famous features is its huge army base, Fort Bragg.
Bragg had a singles win (at No. 3) and two doubles wins (at No. 2 with Dylan Berger) in his Elk debut.
“Jesse played No. 2 singles for his team in North Carolina,” Ronning noted. “That was not a good tennis school, but, he made our varsity.”
Mainly by putting in the time.
“He played in all our summer tournaments,” said Ronning, “and he was here (at the courts) three times a day most of the time.”
Big match Tuesday
The very first conference match might be the top challenge to the the defending conference champion Elks, Ronning said, referring to Coon Rapids, which will host the Elks on Tuesday.
Elk River -Zimmerman 7, Hibbing 0
(1) Josh Chuba, ERZ, def Matt Tourville 6-0, 6-0
(2) Nathan Chanthamontry, ERZ, def Aden Casey 6-0, 6-1
(3) Jesse Bragg, ERZ, def Jeff Permovich 6-2, 6-4
(4) Joe Wetherille, ERZ, def Taylor Pearson 6-0, 6-0
(1) Zak Steichen-Dylan Berger, ERZ, def Ezra Coughlin-Jake Geilen 6-2, 6-0
(2) Logann Burns-Levi Howse, ERZ, def Josh Bestul-Devan Masienic 6-0, 6-0
(3) Noah Steichen-Matt Jesperson, ERZ, def Jon Specht-Jake Bestul 6-2, 6-1
Elk River-Zimmerman 7, Spring Lake Park 0
(1) Sam Gearou, ERZ, def Taylor Holetz 6-1, 6-1
(2) Josh Gearou, ERZ, def Lorg Nguyen 6-0, 6-0
(3) Josh Chuba, ERZ, def Hiep Dam 6-0, 6-0
(4) Nathan Chanthamontrt, ERZ, def Aaron Ayub 6-0, 6-0
(1) Mitchel Brandell-Zak Steichen, ERZ, def Aun Doan-David Tran 6-4, 6-3
(2) Dylan Berger-Jesse Bragg, ERZ, def Jake Ponto-Erich Erdmann 6-3, 6-1
(3) Logann Burns-Levi Howse, ERZm def Corey Buresh-Charlie Yang 6-2, 6-0
Elks 5, Forest Lake 2
(1) Dusty Boyer, FL, def Josh Gearou 6-2, 6-2
(2) Toby Boyer, FL, def Sam Gearou 6-4, 6-4
(3) Mitchel Brandell, ERZ, def Zack Decker 7-5, 6-7, 6-2
(4) Ryan Ness, ERZ, def Brett Gravell 7-6, 4-6, 6-3
(1) Josh Chuba-Zak Steichen, ERZ, def Jake Albee-Caleb Peters 6-0, 6-1
(2) Dylan Berger-Jesse Bragg, ERZ, def Nate Riedeman-name not available 6-3, 6-2
(3) Nathan Chanthomontry-Joe Wetherille, ERZ, def Thane Meier-Ryan Renard 7-6, 6-1