Local tennis teams flood Baseline

Sports Editor
Park Center’s Luis Figueroa competes in the Section 5AA individual tournament May 24. (Sun Post staff photo by Chris Chesky) Champlin Park’s Matt Mungai returns a serve during his match in the opening round of the Section 5AA tournament May 24. (Sun Post staff photo by Chris Chesky) Cooper singles player Joao Teixeira sends the ball toward his opponent during his match in the Section 5AA individual tournament May 24. (Sun Post staff photo by Chris Chesky)
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Cooper singles player Joao Teixeira sends the ball toward his opponent during his match in the Section 5AA individual tournament May 24. (Sun Post staff photo by Chris Chesky)

The Armstrong, Champlin Park, Cooper and Park Center boys tennis teams traveled to the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center May 24, for a chance to send some of its individual players to the upcoming state tournament at the Section 5AA individual tournament.

Armstrong came into the tournament just one day removed from competing for the Section 5AA team title with Wayzata, the eventual champion. Despite the team’s loss, Armstrong head boys tennis coach Jim Uhrich was confident about his players’ chances in the individuals tournament.

“It comes down to the boys and how bad they want it,” Uhrich said. “Nikita and Joe I know are focused, and doubles we’ll see what happens.

“I think they can play with most of the teams, even the top seeds.”

Nikita Snezhko earned the section’s top seed and won his first two matches 6-0, 6-0 after a first-round bye. Joe Lipovetz, the section’s third seed, won his first match of the day 6-2, 6-1, before earning a 6-1, 6-0 win to advance to the section semifinals.

“Both Nikita and Joe at singles are seeded first and third, so I’m expecting big things from the both of them,” Uhrich said. “Going to the semifinals, and Nikita, he beat the number two guy yesterday 6-1, 6-0, so he is playing good tennis.”

Uhrich said the key to the success of Snezhko and Lipvetz has been their maturation since last season, when the two combined to win the state consolation doubles title.

“Between last year and this year, their junior year and senior year, they have both matured tremendously,” Uhrich said. “Nikita knows he has all the shots in the book and his serve is booming right now.

“It’s confidence, too, both Nikita and Joe were undefeated going into yesterday, Joe lost his match in first doubles, but he would have had a good singles match if he played singles.”

The Armstrong doubles teams of Jonathan Urban and Constantin Fischer, the section’s fifth seed, and Evan Gellner and Henry Scott played well on the first day of competition. Urban and Fischer earned a first-round bye before earning a 6-2, 6-0 win to kick off the day. The pair then fell in the quarterfinal round 6-2, 6-0.

Gellner and Scott earned a 6-1, 6-1 win to kick off the day, before earning a spot in the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-1 win. The duo fell 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinal to the section’s second-seeded squad from Wayzata.

Snezhko and Lipovetz played in the section semifinal match May 30. The section title matches were also played May 30 while this edition of the Sun Post was in production.

Champlin Park highlights

The Champlin Park boys tennis team entered the match with fewer expectations, as Champlin Park head boys tennis coach Brian Larson simply wanted his team to enjoy the experience and maybe earn a couple wins in the process.

“We’re hoping to win some matches, that’s the big thing,” Larson said. “We haven’t won a lot of matches this year, so we look to today to win a couple and see what we can do.”

In order to win those matches, Larson set his team up with a simple mindset.

“The biggest thing for us is to control what we can control,” Larson said. “We always say to keep the ball in and make them beat you on a good shot rather than beat yourself.

“We’re trying to focus on making good shots and making less errors on our part.”

Matt Mungai, Champlin Park’s first singles player during the regular season, fell 6-1, 6-0 in his first match of the day, while Kei Heltemes also lost his first match of the day by a score of 6-2, 6-3.

Champlin Park’s only wins of the match came from the doubles team of Salmaan Mulla and Garrett Reichenbach. the duo came back from losing the first set of its first match to win the first match 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, and then earned a 6-0, 6-0 win in the second round over the sixth seed in the tournament. The duo fell 6-2, 6-3 in the third round.

The doubles team of David Lammers and Max Kocher lost its first match of the day 6-2, 7-5.

Cooper highlights

Unlike Armstrong, Cooper entered the Section 5AA individual tournament with the simple goal of enjoying the experience.

“I think the guys are feeling pretty loose about it,” Cooper head boys tennis coach Janio Axelson said. “Their expectations aren’t too high, I think they’re just looking to enjoy the matches today and have fun with it.

“They have shown some progress over the season and they wanted to show off where they’re at.”

Axelson said he planned on using the tournament more to assess his team’s performance than to judge it based on how well it performs against some of the area’s toughest squads.

“I think this is an opportunity for us, because we play some of these team during the regular season, we can show where we have got to,” Axelson said. “We can show we have gotten to that point of progress and compare the score we got back then to the score we get today.

“I think being here at the U of M adds to the excitement of it.”

Cooper’s Joao Teixeira fell 6-3, 3-6, 3-6 in his first match of the day, while Dominique Uzuegbu fell 6-1, 2-6, 2-6 in his first match of the day.

The Cooper doubles team of Jalen Stromberg and Lucas Dormond fell 2-6, 0-6 in its first match of the day, while the team of Andy Columbus and Wenjian Lin fell 1-6, 1-6 in its first match.

Park Center highlights

Park Center, much like Champlin Park, entered the tournament with simple expectations.

“We aren’t playing any seeded players to begin with, so that helps our chances,” Park Center head boys tennis coach Mike Vescellio said. “I’m pleased with our last couple practices of the season, so we hope to have a good showing today.

“We want to reduce unforced error, be in competitive matches, show good sportsmanship and let the chips fall where they may.”

Luis Figueroa lost his first match of the day 6-2, 6-0, before fellow singles player Andrew Chen fell 6-1, 6-2 in his opening match.

The two Park Center doubles teams also fell in their first matches of the day.

Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.