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Boys Tennis: Wingers advance to section semifinals

Red Wing's Marcus Veith prepares to hit a backhand volley at No. 2 doubles against Owatonna Thursday during the Section 1AA playoffs at Twin Bluff Middle School in Red Wing. Veith and Travis Toivonen won their match 6-2, 6-1. Photo by Chris Harrell1 / 2
Red Wing sophomore Nick Meyer runs up to hit a forehand slice during his match at No. 4 singles Thursday at Twin Bluff Middle School. Meyer fell 6-2, 6-3 against Owatonna's Eden Mrozek. Photo by Chris Harrell2 / 2

When Luke Bryant and Nick Powers won their match at No. 1 doubles during Thursday's Section 1AA quarterfinal, Red Wing head coach Matt Kavanagh exhaled.

The second-seeded Wingers were facing a doubles heavy Owatonna team and Kavanagh was worried when he saw Bryant and Powers down 3-0 early in the first set.

His fears quickly dissipated as Red Wing's top doubles pairing recovered for a 6-4, 6-4 victory against the third-seeded Huskies' Sean Grubish and Evan Mrozek.

"I think the day kind of hinged on that match," Kavanagh said. "That was a huge comeback. That was four (wins) in the bag for us and I breathed a big sigh of relief when they won that last point."

Bryant and Powers sealed the fourth and deciding point for the Wingers as Red Wing went on to defeat Owatonna 5-2 at Twin Bluff Middle School in Red Wing.

"We had a hard time of it in the doubles today and to come out and win two of them like that was terrific, especially considering the No. 1 doubles guys were down 3-0 in the first set," Kavanagh said. "I thought there was going to be a few more three-setters. I was surprised at how quickly it was over with. That was the biggest surprise to me. I didn't think it'd be determined until well into the second hour. We had four in the bag within the first hour."

Isaac Toivonen picked up the Wingers' first point in a 6-0, 6-0 victory against Kurtis Pierret at No. 1 singles, Noah Christenson quickly dispatched Tim Starman 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 singles and Marcus Veith and Travis Toivonen defeated Trent Tucker and Matt VanOmmeran 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles to go up 3-0 in the team tally.

After Bryant and Powers won their match, Red Wing junior Alex Holm won his match at No. 2 singles for the fifth and final point. Holm won the first set 6-3 and trailed 5-2 in the second set before storming back to win 7-5 and take the match.

"That was a hard-fought comeback," Kavanagh said. "I was very happy to see Alex get a win even after we won."

The Wingers nearly had a sixth point on Thursday as Josh Lyons and Alex Bettich dropped a tough three-set match against Gavin Glynn and Austin Haley at No. 3 doubles. Lyons and Bettich won the first set but fell 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (9-7).

"They played terrific," Kavanagh said. "That was one of the best matches they played all seasons. They were very upset to lose, but as a coach I was happy with the way they played. They just worked better together as a team; much better returning and better at taking an opportunity when it presented itself. ... Instead of just getting it back over the net, they'd pounce on it to create a competitive advantage. That was the difference between today's match. They really should have won."

Next up, Red Wing gets a rematch with Rochester Mayo in the section semifinals Tuesday at 9 a.m. in Rochester. The Wingers fell 6-1 to the Spartans on April 29. Despite the loss, Red Wing is heading into the match with the utmost confidence.

"I think any one of our guys' matches is winnable against Mayo, but it comes down to the play on the day and the opponent," Kavanagh said. "I might be a fool to think this but I think we can beat Mayo even though we lost 6-1. The key is starting quickly. We've got to be playing tennis from point one.

"They do seem to believe that which is fantastic," he added of his team. "If we're going to beat them, it'll be a 4-3 victory. If you look at the score sheet last time, we played a better second set in every match, which tells me they need to get out of the box a little better and not be mesmerized that they're playing Mayo."

Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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