April 28, 2011 at 8:52 a.m.
Despite completely overmatching the Columbia Heights Hylanders in their North Suburban Conference match, the Wildcats' boys tennis team still took some valuable lessons with them after the end came.
Throughout the match, no Chisago Lakes player -- singles or doubles -- was really threatened, as Columbia Heights only won seven total team games scattered throughout the seven losses.
But, it wasn't long ago that the Wildcats and Head Coach Corey McKinnon were on the other side of the spectrum, barely scraping together points in some of their matches.
"I think we absolutely can take something from these matches," he said. "In tennis, the net separates you and your opponent, and you can't control what's on the other side of the net. You can only influence it. Regardless of our opponents, we want to focus on ourselves and play clean. We don't want any unforced errors and to not throw away points just because we can. There's teachable moments every time you step on the court."
Chisago Lakes 5, Benilde-St. Margaret's 2
In one of the most hotly contested matches in recent memory for the Wildcats, they came out with their perfect North Suburban record in tact after edging the Red Knights of BSM.
"If I could, I would schedule all 16 of our matches to be like this," McKinnon said after the back-and-forth affair. "Every match was good, and I give credit to our guys, they really did good for themselves in this match."
At first singles, Johannes Rau dropped his first set 2-6, but he battled back to win the next two 6-2, 6-3. "Jo really used the first set to break down his opponent," McKinnon explained after the three-set victory. "Once he figured it out, he started hitting a lot of ground strokes and it really opened up the court for him."
At second singles, Joe Turnquist won in straight sets, but it wasn't easy, as he scraped by 7-5, 6-4.
At fourth singles, seventh grader Blake Lizotte put up a good fight, but he dropped his set 4-6, 2-6.
At third doubles, Hogan Haas and Jake Sells dropped their first set 4-6 only to rebound for a 7-5 victory in the second set. With the point hanging in the balance, the pair of veterans fell 4-6 again, tying the match at two apiece with three matches still going on.
The first nail-biter went to Brian Hynes and Brett Lizotte. The pair, who is unbeaten on the year, were drubbed in their first set 2-6, but much like Rau in first singles, they opened up their play a bit after figuring their opponents out and really went to work, winning the next two sets 6-3, 6-4. "The guys really settled into a groove and got momentum going, which is huge in tennis. Brett started attacking the ground strokes and Brian was attacking the serves," McKinnon said. "After that match was over, it's almost as if the tennis court tilted in our favor."
With a 3-2 advantage, the Wildcats needed a win from Vinnie Gorski at third singles or Anner Albin and Will Gillach at second doubles. In the end, they got both victories, but both had to be remarkable comebacks for the Wildcat players.
At second doubles, Albin and Gillach won the first set 6-3, but then dropped the second 4-6. "Anner broke a string in the first set, and had to go to a back up racket early, and that really affected their play in the second set," McKinnon said. But by the third set, Albin was settled in with the racket. At one point, the Red Knight pair actually had three match points against Gillach and Albin, but the young CL pair staved off elimination each time. "One of our sayings is 'Always win the next point'," McKinnon said. "No matter what's happened before, always win the next point, and that's what Anner and Will did. They just kept winning them."
The two battled back to tie the match at six, and Albin and Gillach cruised through the tie break 7-3 to seal the match for Chisago Lakes.
But, the drama wasn't done unfolding. In Gorski's match, he won the opening set 6-2 before losing 6-7 (3-7) in the second set. Although Gorski breezed through the third set, winning 6-4 and adding another point for Chisago Lakes, it was the way he did it which impressed his coach the most. In the close second set, Gorski had three match points, but just couldn't finish off his opponent. "A lot of times when that happens to kids, they are crushed for the third set when they lose," he said. "Vinnie was strong mentally and battled back to take the third set. That takes a lot."
"This match just benefited us so much," McKinnon said after the heart-pounder was over. "It's great to see everyone work that hard and see that heart and toughness come out."
Chisago Lakes 7, Pine City 0
Despite never having beaten the Dragons as the head coach, McKinnon earned his first win over the northern tennis power, in impressive fashion.
"I had a feeling we would be in control, despite losing 3-4 last year," he explained. "They lost a lot to graduation, but they always are reloading. We just played well and executed well, and there wasn't any close match ups in the line up."
McKinnon said the match was all but decided about 35 minutes from the start.
Chisago Lakes 7, Robbinsdale Cooper 0
In another lopsided North Suburban Conference victory, the Wildcats cruised by the Cooper Hawks.
Again, up and down the docket, there just weren't many close scores in the match.
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