by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk River tennis team, ranked No. 1 at the outset of the season and expecting to get everybody’s best shot, capped its first week with a 6-0 record, including three wins at home Saturday.
The first five were a breeze but Hopkins made an impressive showing in the finale Saturday. The Elks won 5-2, sweeping the singles, helped by the absence of Hopkins’ highly-ranked No. 1 player, and losing two of three closely-contested doubles matches.
“We’ve been number one before, but this is a little different, being first right out of the gate for the first time,” acknowledged Logann Burns, one of the Elk senior captains.
“Coach has been really taking about us having the target on our backs and everyone is gunning for us including this Hopkins team. It’s a different kind of pressure but we are happy to have it and we are ready to defend (the rank) throughout the season.”
The Elks won 7-0 over section rivals Hibbing and Chisago Lakes before tangling with Hopkins.
Hopkins (2-1) was missing senior leader Manfred Barrios, who has a shoulder injury. That meant everybody had to move up a notch for the Royals in singles. The Elks quickly won all four singles points. Then it was just a matter of what the final score would be. The Elks prevented a 4-3 score with a third-set tiebreaker win by Joe Wetherille and Nick Tran at No. 3 doubles.
The Elks were state champions two years ago and are still led by the twins who headed that lineup, Josh and Sam Gearou, now juniors with 261 varsity wins between them. Ten of the top 11 players return from the 2013 team that went 24-3 including 1-2 at state when they placed fourth.
Coach Randy Ronning said the Elks have lined up an “awesome” schedule including many of the top-ranked teams “to find out how good we actually are.”
The Elks, after their championship in 2012, reached semifinals again last year, only to lose to Minnetonka and then to Maple Grove, a conference rival they always beat, in the third-place match.
“After we went down to Maple Grove, we all really knew we have to step it up,” said Burns, “and we have been working hard this whole year to build a state championship team. I think you can see that everyone has made an improvement. That’s why we are so deep as a team.”
Prior to practice on Monday, after informing his team about their No. 1 ranking, Ronning referred to the NCAA basketball championship game that evening, reminding his players that “twenty five teams were ranked ahead of the two finalists,” UConn and Kentucky.
“Everybody’s coming after you now,” he said. “So, let’s work hard.”
The Elks will host Blaine on Monday.
Elk River 7, Hibbing 0
(1) Sam Gearou, ER, def Scotty Peronovich 6-0, 6-0
(2) Jordan Haack, ER, def Anthony Patragnan 6-0, 6-0
(3) Tyler Creelman, ER, def Nate Stark 6-0, 6-0
(4) Nick Tran, ER, def Jack Keainey 7-5, 6-4
(1) Nathan Chanthamontry-Josh Gearou, ER, def Jake Jalowsky-Phil Rebrovich 6-0, 6-3
(2) Logann Burns-Zeke Delain, ,ER, def Jake Bestul-Ben Atison 6-0, 6-3
(3) Joe Wetherille-Noah Steichen, ER, def Reece Blagove-Mike Sullivan 6-0, 6-1
Elk River 7, Chisago Lakes 0
(1) Sam Gearou, ER, def Thomas Gillach 6-0, 6-1
(2) Josh Gearou, ER, def Thomas Broski 6-0, 6-0
(3) Zeke Delain, ER, def Patrickk Sullivan 6-0, 6-1
(4) Tyler Creelman, ER, def Walter Matt 6-0, 6-0
(1) Nathan Chanthamontry-Noah Steichen, ER, def Sheamus Sullivan 6-1, 6-4
(2) Logann Burns-Jordan Haack, ER, def Zak Lambrecht-Zander Ives 6-2, 6-3
(3) Joe Wetherille-Tanner Hermanson, ER, def Wyatt Polsfuss-Alex Sayndorf 6-0, 6-0
Elk River 5, Hopkins 2
(1) Josh Gearou, ER, def Andrew Rust 6-0, 6-1
(2) Sam Gearou, ER, def Chase Johnson 6-0, 6-2
(3) Nathen Chanthamontry, ER, def Ben Mattson 6-3, 6-2
(4) Jordan Haack, ER, def Sam Kiefer 6-1, 6-1
(1) Kenny Novak-Jack Diedrich, Hop, def Logann Burns-Noah Steichen 6-3, 6-4
(2) Curran Martin-Mat Rosen, Hop, def Tyler Creelman-Zeke Delain 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2)
(3) Joe Wetherille-Nick Tran, ER, def Simon Peterson-Sam Diedrich 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6)