Mayo, Lourdes tennis teams hoping for glory at state – Post Bulletin

Phil Wisniewski has been on the Mayo tennis team the last three years. Never before have things felt quite this good for the Spartans junior.

Not that there was anything wrong with Mayo tennis in the past. But for Wisniewski, this season has been special.

“Our team has really grown and bonded,” said Wisniewski, who plays No 1 doubles for No. 4 ranked Mayo. “This has for sure been the closest team I’ve been on. I’ve enjoyed it a lot.”

Wisniewski has the best part of the sandwich waiting for him this week, as Mayo will take part in the state team tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center. That will be followed by Wisniewski participating Thursday and Friday in the state individual tournament, along with Mayo doubles partner Ben Erickson.

But it is the team stuff that the 18-3 Spartans covet most. Mayo is a darkhorse to actually win the championship, but it is definitely in the conversation.

It got to state after beating Century 5-2 in the Section 1AA final. It also got there after challenging itself all season, with a pack of duals against fellow top-10 ranked teams.

Its most impressive win came against No. 5-ranked Mounds View, a team it split with during the year. And there were losses to No. 1 Wayzata and No. 3 Orono, as well as a win over No. 9 Mahtomedi and two wins over No. 7 Century.

“We played a tough schedule to prepare us for this opportunity,” Mayo longtime coach Jeff Demaray said. “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. I feel like we are playing our best right now.”

Mayo will be favored when it opens the state tournament at 10 am Tuesday, taking on sturdy but unranked Eagan. Mayo is seeded No. 4 in the tournament, Eagan No. 5.

Should Mayo prevail, it would almost certainly play No. 1 seed Orono next. Orono is fresh off a 4-3 win over Wayzata in the Section 5AA championship.

A clash with Orono is daunting. It beat Mayo 6-1 earlier this season, though there were a pack of close matches in that one.

Demaray knows how good Orono is having seen it firsthand.

“They are No. 1 for a reason,” he said. “They have a lot of players who’ve been to state. There are four or five seniors on that team. They deserve the No. 1 seed.”

Demaray is not ready to get ahead of himself. A clash with Orono is no done deal for his team. Eagan, seeded just one spot below Mayo, will provide plenty of a challenge in the first round.

OK, finally, it is here.

The Lourdes boys tennis team has been waiting for this literally since it headed home from last year’s state tournament.

Already, after losing 7-0 to break in the semifinals, they were telling themselves that 2022 would be their year. It would be their time to – with immense confidence – pursue a state championship.

Lourdes ‘Charlie Young returns the ball during the Section 1A boys tennis doubles championship with his partner Easton Blissenbach against Lourdes’ Freddie Suhler and Ethan Leeser Tuesday, May 31, 2022, at the Rochester Athletic Club.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Beginning Tuesday at Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center in Minneapolis, they’ll go about trying to prove that they’ve been right along, that they are the best that Class A has to offer in 2022.

“I am excited because we think we have a great shot at winning the state championship,” said Lourdes senior Easton Blissenbach. “We’ve been working hard at this. And we’re still working hard at it.”

No. 2-ranked Lourdes begins its state-title push at 10 am Tuesday against No. 9 Foley in the quarterfinals. Win that one and a rematch with No. 3 Breck would likely be looming in Wednesday’s semifinals. Break graduated some key players from a year ago and Lourdes has already beaten the Mustangs once this season, 5-2.

Win both of those and the 13-5 Eagles would find themselves in the final. Their foe would almost certainly be the tournament’s favorite, No. 1-ranked St. Paul Academy, a team that beat it 5-2 a year ago.

But in Lourdes’ minds, the odds should be in its favor, not SPA’s. Which makes this week “proving time.”

“We don’t put any thought into (rankings),” said Blissenbach, one of six incredibly close and driven seniors on this year’s Lourdes team. “We’ve not played (St. Paul Academy) this year. That (ranking) is based on last year.”

Lourdes coach Steve Tacl also likes his team’s state-tournament chances. The Eagles, who are seeking their first state championship since 2018, seem to be playing their best tennis. Schaeffer Academy figured out to be a bit of a challenge for Lourdes in the Section 1A final. But that never materialized, Lourdes romping 7-0.

The Eagles are extremely strong at the top of their lineup, with No. 1 singles guy Marjan Veldic ranked No. 1 in Class A, and Ethan Leeser considered possibly the best No. 2 singles player in the state.

And there is plenty more good stuff beneath them, including talented and versatile (singles or doubles) Freddie Suhler, who figured to play either No. 3 singles or No. 1 doubles.

Still, as much confidence as Tacl has in his team, he’s not ready to print any state championship T-shirts yet. All he knows is that his Eagles have a chance at achieving their dream. But it’s just a chance.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to who wins the bag matches, matches at state that are really close,” he said. “Right now, we’re just trying to prepare their minds for big moments. Our guys know what it is to be at state tournaments. There is different energy up there. Not everything is a storybook ending. You have to perform well. “

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