The undefeated, top-ranked Elk River tennis team will play for the state championship at against Wayzata today (Wednesday) at 4 p.m., after scuttling Mahtomedi 6-1 in the semifinals this morning.
“It’s very exciting,” said coach Randy Ronning. “Mahtomedi beat us a state the last two years, and once in 2001 or 2002, and now we’ve beaten them in the regular season (4-0, rain-shortened) and at state, so that’s a little redemption, and it feels good.”
The Elks (30-0) have also beaten Wayzata, 6-1, at home. Wayzata was missing one of their top individuals that match.
“Wayzata is a great team and played the championship last year (losing to Rochester Mayo),” said Ronning. “We had a phenomenal match with them, and even though we won 6-1, there were a lot of good matches. But I think we are poised to win. The kids are very excited.”
Against Mahtomedi, Ronning switched Sam Gearou, who’s battling a sore left (serving) shoulder, to No. 1 doubles with Mitchel Brandell, to save on his shoulder with less serving. But Mahtomedi elected to loaded up one-doubles by putting their top two singles players there, Ty Young and Kishore Damodaran. Ronning and Gearou won 6-3, 6-4.
“I may have outfoxed myself there, I don’t know,” sad the coach. “I knew Sam and Mitchel had a good chance to beat them, and they did, but it was a tough match. But I knew then we would have a good chance to sweep singles, and we did, and, really, we came within one tie-breaker of sweeping doubles, too.”
Singles were quickly won by the Elks, assuring advancement to the finals. Josh Gearou beat Zach Plooster 6-1, 6-0; Ryan Ness dispatched Cooper Schwieters 6-0, 6-3; Matt Odegard topped Ryan Meger 6-1, 6-1; and Josh Chuba oustroked Thomas Comfort 6-1, 6-1.
The Elk loss came at No. 2 doubles. Dylan Berger and Jesse Bragg won the first set 7-6 (7-2), lost the second 6-1, and fell in a tie-breaker 10-8, against Teddy Bowie and Hardt Bergmann. Berger and Bragg were unbeaten before state, where they’ve lost twice. Berger is playing with burns on his right (serving) had from an accident in a science class Friday.
Meanwhile, Nathan Chamthamontry and Logann Burns won at No. 3 doubles over Mark Oldani and Derek Johnson 6-4, 2-6, 10-2. In the finals, Chanthamontry (who always plays) will be paired with senior Steve Delain.
“I am really proud of what No. 3 doubles has done for us,” said Ronning. “In the past, three doubles has always done well until we get to state and meet the elite teams. But this year, we are getting that point here, too.”
This marked the first time in nine state tournament appearances that Elk River has reached the finals. They had fallen in the semifinals for times.
The Elk netters will be bidding to join boys hockey, girls hockey, softball, girls golf, and girls cross country as ERHS programs with a state championship on their ledger.