by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk River Elks came up empty on the climactic day of the tennis season and wound up fourth place in the state.
After advancing to the final four Tuesday, the Elks fell to a red-hot Wayzata lineup 6-1 in the semifinals Wednesday at the University of Minnesota.
“Wayzata really brought it today,” said Elk coach Randy Ronning. “Good for them. That’s what champions do.”
Then, with a chance to salvage a third-place trophy, the Elks lost to East Ridge 4-3 when they couldn’t hold leads in the last two matches completed.
Wayzata then defeated Minnetonka 5-2 and captured its second consecutive state title since losing to the Elks in the 2012 finals.
The Elks, who beat St. Cloud Tech 5-2 in the quarterfinals, finished duals 26-5.
They are not done yet as Josh Gearou and the doubles team of Sam Gearou and Nathan Chanthamontry will compete Thursday and (if they advance) Friday.
The Elks moved their 3-4 singles players into doubles against Wayzata, which had beaten them 5-2 in a scrimmage of pro-10 matches a few weeks earlier.
“We wanted to improve doubles and we had three good doubles teams, but Blaine was just better today,” said Ronning.
After watching Wayzata struggle to beat Mahtomedi 4-3 in the quarterfinals, Ronning figured the Elks would beat them if the Trojans played at the same level.
“We played well, but they were just on fire,” said Ronning. “Their coach said it was by far the best match they’ve played all year.”
Wayzata won the first five points completed to remove suspense early.
Elk River junior Sam Gearou led all the way and won his No. 2 singles match to get the Elks on the scoreboard. It looked like Josh Gearou would make the final score a more respectable 5-2 as he led Nick Beaty 9-6 in a third-set tie-breaker at No.1, but the Trojan sophomore stormed back to win 11-9, helped by two missed shots by Gearou.
Similarly, the Elks were not able to nail down the fourth point against East Ridge. They led 3-2 in the match with both Logann Burns and Noah Steichen at No. 1 doubles and Tyler Creelman and Zeke Delain at No. 2 doubles building a 5-3 lead in their third sets, playing side-by-side. In both cases, however, East Ridged rallied to win in overtime.
Josh and Sam Gearou won quickly at one and two, and Jordan Haack won a 3-setter at No. 4 singles for the Elks points.
This was Elk River’s 11th state tournament, and ninth in a row. They’ve finished fourth the last two years and five times overall, along with one championship, one third place and one fifth place. The Elks have won at least one match in 10 of their 11 trips to state.
Wayzata 6, Elk River 1
(1) Nicholas Beaty, W, def. Joshua Gearou 6-2, 4-6, (11-9)
(2) Samuel Gearou, ER, def. Henry Lee 6-2, 6-3
(3) Sam Theisen, W, def. Logann Burn 6-2, 6-3
(4) Brennan Campbell, W, def. Nicholas Tran 6-1, 6-2.
(1) Steele Kowalczyk-Jake Strom, W, def. Nathan Chanthamontry-Noah Steichen 6-4, 6-3
(2) Jack Garvey -Joseph Haugen, W, def. Jordan Haack-Zeke Delain 6-4, 6- 3.
(3) William Yancey -Nick Kasner, W, def. Tyler Creelman-Joe Wetherille, ER, 6-2, 7-5
East Ridge 4, Elk River 3
(1) Joshua Gearou, ER, def. Anuraag Bukkuri 4-0 (retired)
(2) Samuel Gearou, ER def. Zekeria Nigatu 6-0, 6-0
(3) Benjamin Van der Sman, EV, def. Nathan Chanthamontry 6-4, 6-0
(4) Jordan Haack, ER, def. Nikhil Gupta 1-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2.
(1) Gregory Sharrow-John Pratt, EV, def. Logann Burns-Noah Steichen 3-6, 6- 3, 7-5
(2) Yifan Lu-Vishaal Gupta, EV, def. Tyler Creelman-Zeke Delain 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2)
(3) Evan Fridinger-Nitin Venkatesh, EV, def. Joe Wetherille-Tanner Hermanson 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.