May 27, 2010 at 10:15 a.m.

Bouwens helps Wildcats stave off Andover to move to semi-finals

Bouwens helps Wildcats stave off Andover to move to semi-finals
Bouwens helps Wildcats stave off Andover to move to semi-finals

Chisago Lakes 4, Cambridge-Isanti 3

Although the conference schedule was over, the Wildcat boys tennis team had a huge match against Cambridge-Isanti to close out the regular season.

The Bluejackets were battling with the 'Cats for the second seed in the sub-section, thus an easier route through sectional play. "We had to fight to take this one," Head Coach Corey McKinnon said.

Joe Turnquist dropped a straight-set loss at first singles, but he did a nice job against Nick Reiners, C-I's first singles player who has been on their varsity for years.

Hogan Haas also dropped his match quickly 3-6, 3-6, but CL kept it even when Brett Lizotte and David Rau crushed their opponents at first doubles 6-0, 6-1, and Cam Bouwens ran through his fourth singles match 6-1, 6-2.

The 'Cats took the lead when Jared Rectenwal and Tommy Johnson won at third doubles 6-2, 6-3. With the match staying razor thin, McKinnon figured things were going to come down to the wire.

At second doubles, Brian Hynes and Brian Erickson lost 5-7 in their first set, but recovered to win 6-4 in the second set. However, the momentum didn't carry into the third set, and they dropped it 3-6, leaving the match up to second singles player Vinnie Gorski.

Gorski had lost the first set 4-6, but came back to win th second set at 6-3. In the third set, Gorski fought off three match points to tie the match at 6-6. Things didn't look so hot, though, when Gorski went down 4-2 in the tiebreaker. But, he ramped it up a notch as the match seemed to be slipping away and won the next five points to win 7-4 and solidify the 'Cats as at least the number three seed in the section.

In the meantime, Andover, who was CL's competition for the second seed, fiddled around with their lineup a little too much in a season-ending 4-3 loss to Princeton, and that opened the door for Chisago Lakes to move up the second seed in sections.

Chisago Lakes 6, St. Francis 1

In the opening round of section, Chisago Lakes took on familiar foe and seventh-seeded St. Francis.

The Saints didn't put up much of a fight on the day, and that was a good thing, as the match was on a nasty, sticky, hot and muggy Monday afternoon.

The only loss on the day came when Chisago Lakes had already wrapped up the match and Rectenwal began to feel ill in the heat and didn't finish his match.

Chisago Lakes 4, Andover 3

With their win over St. Francis, the 'Cats moved on to the second round where third-seeded Andover awaited.

Coming into the match, McKinnon pondered tinkering with his lineup to match Andover's strength, which is their singles lineup. "Top to bottom, their singles are very good," he said. "They have a top player at first singles and their second and third guys aren't too far away from him."

But, he decided to stick with his lineup that has been hot lately, and it paid off."It was just a dog fight," he said. "But, I couldn't be more proud of all 10 guys, and even the exhibition guys. I've always told them that great players make the plays and back it up when the pressure is on, and that's what the guys did against Andover.

And the pressure couldn't have been hotter than their second consecutive day playing in humid 90 degree weather.

As he expected, McKinnon's Wildcats ran through doubles fairly easily. Rau and Lizotte moved their season record to 15-0 with a 6-1, 6-4 win at first doubles, Erickson and Hynes won in straight sets 6-1, 7-5, and Johnson and Ben Stanghelle won 6-2 in the first set, then had a little hiccup in the second set, losing 4-6, but they came back and finished the match easily in the third set, winning 6-3.

Although he figured he had doubles in the bag, McKinnon knew he still needed a win or two in singles to take the match.

Turnquist had a tough match up at first singles with one of the top guys in the sections and lost 4-6, 0-6. Haas also had a troublesome match-up and lost in straight sets.

Gorski, who was playing a kid he lost to 6-4, 6-1 earlier in the season, won his first set 6-1, and Bouwens won his first set 6-3, so the 'Cats seemed to be well on their way to winning the match 5-2.

Things unraveled for Gorski, though in the second and third sets. He lost 0-6 in the second set, and then couldn't recover from the shellacking, and lost 3-6 in the third set to put the match at 3-3 and leave it up to Bouwens, the senior.

After winning his first set convincingly, Bouwens lost the second set 4-6 and everything came down to their third set. "This is what I love about multi-sport athletes," McKinnon commented after the game. "Cam didn't blink. I told him 'If this was soccer, you'd want the free kick coming off of your foot'. He had been in a spot like this and he knew what it took."

Battling the nasty heat, Bouwens reversed his fortunes and won the third set 6-3 and advanced the Wildcats to the next round of sections.

"I was so proud of Cam because he was close to not finishing in the second set because of the heat. It really took a toll on him," McKinnon said. "We had to use our injury timeout, and it was neat to see our tennis family step up in that 10 minutes. Parents had pretzels for him, Gatorade, oranges, anything that could put some energy back into him for the third set."

The win set up the 'Cats for a match up with the Duluth East Greyhounds in St. Francis next Wednesday. They were the top seed in the North sub-section, but McKinnon and his boys aren't worried about seedings. "Just like we have all year, we're going to look to scrap for every point and work hard on the courts," he said.

Individual Section Preview

This week, individual sectionals started, and the 'Cats best chance lays in Rau and Lizotte. The pair is 15-0 on the year and seeded first in the sub-section.

Hynes and Erickson are ranked 10th in the doubles bracket, and in the singles side of things, Joe Turnquist is the sixth-seeded competitor while Gorski is the seventh seed.

For full results of individuals, check out next weeks issue of the Chisago County Press.

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