by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Fifty straight conference victories, and five straight championships, that’s the tally for the Elk River-Zimmerman tennis team.
The Elks capped the regular season with a 7-0 win over Andover at home on Thursday, finishing 10-0 in Northwest Suburban Conference matches.
They were 9-0 each of the last four years (Armstrong was added this year) and won their last four matches in 2006, the year Centennial beat them 4-3, their last league loss.
“It feels good,” said Elk coach Randy Ronning about yet another unbeaten conference season.
He credited Jimmy Chanthamontry, Tom Ness and Curt Johnson for all the between-seasons work they do with the players.
“Most people picked us to be first or second, and we won it in the offseason,” said Ronning.
He added that the players continue to work all season: “We have not had a bad practice all year. They keep working, and get better all the time.”
The Elks finished 10-0, Maple Grove 9-1, and Centennial 8-2. They were especially dominant this year, beating Maple Grove and Blaine each 6-1 and all the other teams 7-0.
The Elks, ranked No. 7 in Class AA, will take a 20-2 overall record into Section 8AA starting Monday at St. Cloud Apollo and Sartell. They are likely to be seeded first.
“We have a better than 50-50 chance (to reach state),” said Ronning.
The Elks and St. Cloud Tech, which has lost only to Edina, are the top two teams, and both have most of the lineup back from last year when the Elks beat the Tigers 7-0 in the finals.
The 2011 title was achieved with just one senior, Zak Steichen, who teamed with Mitchel Brandell to win a close two-setter at No. 1 doubles against Andover.
This year’s squad has some excellent veterans — Josh and Sam Gearou, Ryan Ness, Brandell, Steichen — while also getting some pleasant surprises, said Ronning.
He especially cited Jesse Bragg, a junior who moved from North Carolina last June, made the starting lineup and lost just once all year; freshman Logann Bruns, who worked hard enough to rise from No. 21 to No. 10 on the Elks’ charts; and freshman Nathan Chanthamontry, who sharpened his serve and overhead to lift his game considerably.
Elk River -Zimmerman 7, Andover 0
(1) Sam Gearou, ERZ, def Bobby Munoz 6-1, 6-3
(2) Josh Gearou, ERZ, def Dillon Danforth 6-0, 6-0
(3) Ryan Ness, ERZ, def Nate Thelem 6-0, 6-0
(4) Josh Chuba, ERZ, def Cody Sagel 6-0, 6-0
(1) Mitchel Brandell-Zak Steichen, ERZ, def Grant Johnson-Erik Jones 6-3, 7-6, 7-5tb
(2) Dylan Berger-Jesse Bragg, ERZ, def Ryan Thiel-Taylor Johnson 6-2, 6-0
(3) Nathan Chanthamontry-Logann Burns, ERZ, def Jeff Probst-Brant Krieger 6-3, 6-1
Final NWSC standings
Elk River 10-0
Maple Grove 9-1
Coon Rapids 7-3
Champlin Park 4-6
Park Center 2-8