Otter netmen advance to state semi-finalsPublished 1:33pm Wednesday, June 5, 2013
By Norm Newell
For the Journal
The Fergus Falls boys tennis team made modern era history today at the Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center in Minneapolis when they topped Virginia 5-2 in the first round of the state class A tennis tournament to reach the final four. We believe this is the first time a Fergus Falls boys tennis team has reached the championship semi-finals in state play. The Otters will now play the No. 2 ranked team in the state, Breck, in their semi-final scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday. If the Otters win, they would play in the championship match at 4 p.m. If they lose they will play for third place in a 2 p.m. match.
The Otters settled the team match decision in the first hour of the match, as they powered through with victories in the first and second singles matches and the first and third doubles matches to quickly get the four points needed to assure victory. All three other matches were very close and went to third sets. As all four first round matches are scheduled on the same courts during the day, once a team has decided the outcome by getting four points, any third set matches are decided by tie-breakers only to speed play. In those third set tie-breakers, the Otters won at third singles and narrowly lost at fourth singles and second doubles, for a final team score of 5-2.
The Otters’ No. 1 doubles team of Jason Burns and Sam Rausch were the first ones off the court with a victory by a decisive 6-1, 6-2 score. They controlled the match from the outset and were never in danger. No. 2 singles player David Schneck followed shortly thereafter with a 6-4, 6-0 victory. He was down 2-3 in the first set as he was having trouble adjusting to the lighting, but once he got acclimated and got his strokes down, he steam-rolled through, winning 11 of the next twelve games for the match victory. No. 1 singles player Jesse Schneeberger then followed shortly after that with a 6-2, 6-2 victory. He was down 0-1 in the first set and 1-2 in the second set, but those were the only scares as he played very consistently from both the backhand and forehand sides to sprint through the last five games of each set for his match point. The fourth and deciding point came at the hands of the Otters third doubles team of Brady Anderson and Jake Steen. They also controlled their match well, getting the decisive points in the majority of their games to win convincingly 6-2, 6-2.
That took the pressure off the remaining three matches as they all ended with split sets and decisive third set tie-breakers. At No. 3 singles, Jordan Schneeberger won his first set 6-2, but his opponent played very steady and made few errors in the second set to win that one 6-3. As the team match had already been decided, the tournament officials mandated a third set “super” tie-breaker, first one to 10 points having to win by 2. With the tie-breaker going back and forth and even at 6-6, Schneeberger took the next 3 points to go up 9-6, and after dropping the next point, he came back with a winner to reach the 10 point plateau for the win. At No. 4 singles, Sam Steen lost the first set 2-6 and trailed throughout the second set and was down 4-5 when he started hitting winners from all over the court. He stormed back to take that second set in a tie-breaker 7-6 (7-5). Again a third set 10-point tiebreaker was mandated and again the scores went back and forth, but with the tie-breaker tied at 9-9, the Virginia player hit a winner and then induced an error to take the match by the narrowest of margins, 11-9. At second doubles, John Makielski and Connor Hatfield came back from being down early to take the first set in a tie-breaker 7-6 (7-5), but then dropped the second set 6-2. Virginia was a few shots better in the third set tie-breaker for a 10-7 tie-break and match win.
“I’m very proud of these boys and I know their many family members and friends that came to cheer them on are too,” noted Otter coach Norm Newell. “This team has steadily improved throughout the season and has consistently proven themselves on the court in pressure situations, just as they did today. I believe last year’s state tournament experience for our players at 1 through 3 singles and 1 doubles made a difference in their confidence, as all of them won their matches today. Brady and Jake at 3 doubles have really come on as a team and won their match handily also. We know our next two matches will be tough, playing with the best of the best, but right now we’re going to celebrate being counted in the top four in the state.”
Fergus Falls 5, Virginia 2
Singles – 1. Jesse Schneeberger (FF) 6-2, 6-2 over Joey Skaudis (V); 2. David Schneck (FF) 6-4, 6-0 over Tom Prittinen (V); 3. Jordan Schneeberger (FF) 6-2, 3-6, [10-7] over Ricky Sipila (V); 4. Jake Seitz (V) 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), [11-9] over Sam Steen (FF)
Doubles – 1. Jason Burns & Sam Rausch (FF) 6-1, 6-2 over Andy Callister & Darby Maloney (V); 2. Cal Arnberg & Cole Babiracki (V) 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, [10-7]; 3. Brady Anderson & Jake Steen (FF) 6-2, 6-2 over Jason Murray & Dominic Pauling (V).