by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Every year Mitchel Brandell has played for the Elk tennis team, they’ve gone to the state tournament, so he fully expected the 2011 team to finish at the U of M’s Baseline Courts again.
And so they will, as the Elks beat Brainerd 7-0 and St. Cloud Tech 6-1 at the Section 8AA tournament Tuesday at Gold’s Gym in Sartell to snag another Section 8AA crown.
“Yes, we usually go into the season thinking we’ll go (to state). It’s always our goal,” said Brandell, a junior who’s started since seventh grade and will make his fifth straight trip to state.
The No. 7 ranked Elks will take a 23-2 record into state next Tuesday, opening against No. 10 Eastview at 10 a.m.
This year there’s no dynastic Edina (24-time state champion) in the field, as the Hornets had some problems and Wayzata won its section.
Brandell noted: “There’s still a lot of good teams — the top eight among 118 teams. I’m just glad we are one of them.”
The Elks vaunted singles lineup of Josh Gearou, Sam Gearou, Brandell and Ryan Ness at 1-2-3-4 continued to mash competition, while the Elks also won five of six doubles points, at the section.
Tech, the team the Elks beat in the finals for the second straight year, had lost just once previous match, to Edina 4-3.
“It feels very good. We beat a very good team,” said Elk coach Randy Ronning. “We have great respect for all Tech has accomplished in the last 30 years.”
Ronning has been most impressed by what his own team has accomplished this year, extending its NWCS win streak to 50 matches, and losing only to No. 8 ranked Minnetonka 4-3 and No. 5 Wayzata 6-1.
“We have not had one bad match all year,” said Ronning.
Two previously-unbeaten Tech singles players lost to the Elks. At No. 1, Josh Gearou toppled Riley Bates 6-1, 6-0, and at No. 4, Ness tripped Riley Pederson 6-2, 6-1.
“Josh played a fantastic match,” said Ronning. “His passing shots and lobs were so good.”
The Elks will now try to advance singles and doubles entrants to the state meet. Last week in subsections, a Ness-Brandell duo upset the Gearou twins, who reached the state doubles semifinals last year as seventh-graders. The teammates may have to meet again Wednesday but it’s possible that both could advance to state.
“We have a very good chance for both of us to go,” said Brandell, adding it would be very important to him to qualify for individuals as he has fallen short previous years in singles play.
Ness, asked if it was exciting to beat the Gearou sibs, smiled, “Yes, definitely. That’s the first time ever. Last year, me and Bob Johnson lost to then twice (in sectionals). They beat me in practice, too.”
This will be the fifth state trip for Ness, the team’s lone three-sport athlete. He made all-state in soccer as a midfielder and starts at guard in basketball. He’s gone to state twice in soccer and this will be his third time in tennis.
“There’s no one dominant team,” said Ness, “so whoever plays well down there has a chance to win it.”
The top-ranked team, Mahtomedi, is among the state qualifiers.
Elk River-Zimmerman 7, Brainerd 0
(1) Josh Gearou, ERZ, def Cole Sundquist 6-0, 6-0
(2) Sam Gearou, ERZ, def Jordan Schiltz 6-0, 6-2
(3) Mitchel Brandell, ERZ, def Luke Jacobson 6-0, 6-0
(4) Ryan Ness, ERZ, def D.J. Kramer 6-0, 6-2
(1) Josh Chuba-Zak Steichen, ERZ, def Gunnar Askegaard-Trent Anderson 6-2, 6-2
(2) Dylan Berger-Jesse Bragg, ERZ, def Bobby Posh-Reno Fussy 6-0, 6-0
(3) Nathan Chanthamontry-Steve Delain, ERZ, def Parker Sundquist-Ryan Bell 6-2, 6-1
Elk River-Zimmerman 6, St. Cloud Tech 1
(1) Josh Gearou, ERZ, def Riley Bates 6-1, 6-0
(2) Sam Gearou, ERZ, def Jan Van Daal 6-0, 6-0
(3) Mitchel Brandell, ERZ, def Christopher Mavetz 6-4, 6-1
(4) Ryan Ness, ERZ, def Riley Pederson 6-2, 6-1
(1) Josh Chuba-Zak Steichen, ERZ, def Luke Zwiener-Tyler Bates, 5-7, 7-6, 6-2
(2) Dylan Berger-Jesse Bragg, ERZ, def Cameron Kiffmeyer-Taylor LeVaas 6-1, 7-5
(3) Alexander Matchinsky-Wyatt Pauley, SCT, def Nathan Chanthamontry-Logan Burns 3-6, 6-2, 10-7