|6/1/2017 3:46:00 PM|
Gillach now most decorated tennis player in Chisago Lakes history
After winning his third consecutive Mississippi 8 Conference Player of the Year, Chisago Lakes senior Thomas Gillach set his sights on a higher goal, something he hadn’t done before: qualify for the state tournament as an individual.
He did just that last week, finishing second in Section 7AA, which guaranteed him a spot in the state tournament at the University of Minnesota Baseline Tennis Center on Thursday, June 8.
The site is a familiar one to the senior. Gillach has been to the state tournament the past three years, but it was in doubles competition every time. This year, he was trying to become the first Chisago Lakes tennis player ever, in boys or girls, who qualified for both the individual and doubles state tourney.
He was seeded second in the Section 7AA tournament, behind only Elliot Schneider of Duluth East. Schneider is the defending section champion and won a match last year at the state tournament.
The pair split two matches last year against each other, but Schneider had beaten Gillach earlier this season.
Both of them breezed through the first three rounds. Gillach’s first round opponent was Max Kelley of Forest Lake. He cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 win to move on and face seventh seeded Alex Fish of Coon Rapids. It was another domination by Gillach, as he beat Fish 6-1, 6-1.
In the semifinals, Gillach drew third seeded Sam Skogland of Anoka. It would figure to be a much more competitive match, but Gillach was just playing on another level and won handily 6-2, 6-1.
Schneider cruised on the top half of the bracket, winning 6-0, 6-2 in the first round, 6-1, 6-0 in the second round and 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals to set up the showdown with Gillach.
“Thomas is playing at a really high level right now, and he did so again on Thursday in the section championship match,” Head Coach Jon Pieper said.
Gillach came out on fire in the finals against Schneider. He broke three of the Duluth East senior’s serves in the first set and won 6-3.
“Thomas has the ability to still be offensive in the return of serve game, which is a clear strength,” Pieper explained after the match.
The second set was an epic back-and-forth between the two talented players. They both knew each other’s games, as Schneider had actually stayed at Gillach’s house in the offseason as they were both going to a tennis camp down in the cities.
The both used all their tricks in the second set, but Schneider just edged Gillach 7-5, sending the match into a third set.
It was another close call, but Schneider’s high level experience in singles play prevailed, as well as some truly astounding shots, and he won 6-4.
“Watching Elliot and Thomas play was one of the more nerve-wracking matches I have seen, but you wouldn't notice it from Thomas,” Pieper noted. “He's about as mentally tough a player I have coached in any sport. In that last set, Elliot pulled off some miraculous shots that there just wasn't much of an answer for.”
But, even with the loss, Gillach punched his ticket to the state tourney as the top two finishers from each section move on. That just means Gillach’s first round opponent will be a section winner, but with his talent, he can compete with any of them.
“I can’t wait to watch him play at state again,” Pieper said. “He's a good person, he plays the game with character and respect. I'm proud to tell people that I coach him.”
Gillach's first round match up is a doozy. He drew Ben van der Sman of East Ridge, who is the top ranked player in Class AA. van der Sman finished in third place last year in the Class AA tournament. The two will play on court one at 8 a.m. at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota.