Jeremy Mayo/River News

Lakeland’s Aaron Petersen returns a shot in his upset win over Shawano’s Harrison Sturycz in the WIAA Sub-Sectional on Monday, May 21, at Rhinelander High School.
Jeremy Mayo/River News

Lakeland’s Aaron Petersen returns a shot in his upset win over Shawano’s Harrison Sturycz in the WIAA Sub-Sectional on Monday, May 21, at Rhinelander High School.
The playoff season has begun for the Lakeland Union High School boys' tennis team, starting with the WIAA subsectional at Rhinelander High School on Monday.

The goal for the Thunderbirds was to hold serve and advance to Wednesday's sectional meet.

Lakeland managed to push through three entries to the sectional meet, as Aaron Petersen and Matt Holmes each advanced in singles play, while the doubles tandem of Jack Garcia and Tony Holmes also moved on.

Petersen entered the meet seeded fifth at No. 1 singles and he won a nail-biting upset to advance.

Petersen faced fourth-seeded Harrison Sturycz of Shawano and he won his first set, 6-3. In the second set, Sturycz came back to even the match with a 7-6 win after Petersen held a 5-1 lead. He finally closed it out with a 6-4 win in the third set.

"We've talked a lot about leaving things in the past, focusing only on what you can do in the present," LUHS head coach Ted Dasler said. "As the third set concluded, with Aaron Petersen leading 4-5, would the previous set affect him or would he stay focused to the end? With Sturycz serving to stay in the match, Petersen put together a series of solid shots and match point was at hand. When Harrison's final forehand sailed wide, Aaron shouted jubilantly in victory."

While Petersen only needed to win one match to advance, Matt Holmes needed two at No. 2 singles.

Holmes entered the day seeded third and scored an easy 6-0, 6-0 win over Anton Piantek of Shawano in the first round.

In the second, Holmes squared off with second-seeded Corey Baron of Pacelli, who was recently crowned Great Northern Conference champion, although Holmes did not compete in the meet.

A little more than a week prior, the two engaged in a thrilling match that saw Holmes come from behind to win.

This match also went three sets, but was not quite as competitive. Still, Holmes had to come from behind after dropping the first set, 6-1. He would regroup and win a pair of 6-1 matches to move on to sectionals.

"Corey Baron is a tough matchup. He's basically a pusher but has some power," Dasler said. "The only way to play him is to stay patient and wait for your opportunities to get aggressive with controlled power. In their first meeting this year Matt lost in straight sets. In their second meeting he lost the first set, but you could see that he was figuring out when to attack and when to be solidly aggressive. His deep ground strokes began to find the deep corners of the court.

"In this subsectional match, it kind of played out the same way," Dalser continued." Losing the first set 1-6, Holmes was figuring out the tight combination of aggressiveness and patience. That was on display in the second set and even more so in the third as again, his deep ground strokes continually found the deep corners of the court. The Xavier coach was watching him in amazement saying, 'I remember him from last year. He's a mentally tough player.'"

Garcia and Tony Holmes also only needed to win one match to reach sectionals and had a favorable No. 2 seed.

The GNC doubles players of the year managed to coast past a tandem from Fox Valley Luthern in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0.

"I admonished them near the end to be more aggressive," Dasler said. "Afterward I found out why they backed off. Jack said, 'We knew Xavier was watching us, so we didn't want to show too much.' Smart."

Zach Kane won his first round match against Adam Labbs of Fox Valley Lutheran in an upset. No. 5 Kane topped No. 4 Labbs, 6-2, 6-3. His run would come to an end against top-seeded Jacob Weddle of Rhinelander in the next round, 6-1, 6-1.

Alex Tucker and Josh Kakuschke put up a battle at No. 3 doubles, but ultimately fell in three sets, 6-3, 6-7, 2-6.

Those who advanced to sectionals for Lakeland competed on Wednesday at the Kohler Sports Center for the chance to go to the state meet.

That match concluded after press time. A full recap will appear in Tuesday's edition of The Lakeland Times.

Nick Sabato may be reached at nick@lakelandtimes.com or via Twitter @NickSabatoLT.