5/16/2017 7:26:00 AM T-Bird tennis takes fourth at conference tournament
Jeremy Mayo/River News
Matt Holmes reaches for a forehand during his No. 2 singles match against Medfordís Alec Veal at the Great Northern Conference tennis conference meet at Rhinelander on Saturday, May 13.
Jeremy Mayo/River News
Vincent Yu eyes a backhand during the No. 2 singles championship match against Rhinelanderís Markus Johnson at the Great Northern Conference tennis conference meet at Rhinelander on Saturday, May 13.
The season could be considered a struggle, starting the season with a less-than-full roster, but the Lakeland boys' tennis team didn't let that get in its way at the Great Northern Conference tournament.
The Thunderbirds finished in fourth place, amassing 17 tournament points. Along with their 40 dual points, the Thunderbirds also finished the conference season in fourth place with 57 points. Rhinelander topped the conference again with 140 overall points.
The best Thunderbird finish came from No. 2 singles player Vincent Yu. Yu claimed the only first round win for Lakeland, taking down second seeded Josh Brooks of Medford in a three set match, prevailing in the third set tiebreaker, 4-6, 6-3, 10-2.
In the championship, Yu took on Markus Johnson of Rhinelander, a player he's challenged before this year. But Johnson was able to cruise past Yu in straight sets, 6-1, 6-0. For finishing in second, Yu was awarded Second Team All-Conference.
At No. 1 singles, Aaron Petersen was unable to pull out of his first round match, falling to Tyler Husnick of Antigo, 6-3, 6-2.
"Aaron lost to the eventual winner in what could be considered an upset," head coach Ted Dasler said. "Husnick, seeded third, defeated Aaron in straight sets and then beat the No. 1 seed in three sets."
In the third place match, Alec Veal of Medford topped Petersen in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4.
"It was more a case of the other players really stepping up their game. Aaron lost to a player he'd beaten twice in Medford's Alec Shear," Dasler said.
Matt Holmes, at No. 3 singles and seeded third, fell to the second seed, Alec Veal of Medford, in a third set tiebreaker 6-0, 4-6, 10-7.
Holmes couldn't rebound in the third place match, falling in another third set tiebreaker to Tanner Stueck of Antigo, 6-3, 3-6, 4-10.
"There were a lot of coaches that were impressed with Matt. Matt played a competitive long first match, losing 7-10 in the third set tiebreaker," Dasler said.
Aric Van Order, at No. 4 singles, dropped his opener as well, falling to Tommy Blink of Antigo in straight sets 6-3, 6-1.
But Van Order redeemed himself in the third place match. Taking on Marcus Reimann on Medford, Van Order closed out the match in a third set tiebreaker following two very close sets, winning 6-7 (6), 7-5, 10-8.
"Aric was fabulous as a first time player. Losing the first match 3-6, 1-6, Aric lost a close first set 6-7(7-9) but came charging back taking the second 7-5," Dasler said. "Aric's hustle and determination really showed as Van Order took control of the tiebreaker."
Dasler said while the singles players might not have won first place, they did garner praise from other coaches and players.
"The best comment was from another school after seeing Aric and Matt play asking 'Where do you get these guys?' It's a testament to the work that they put in and shows it's paying off," Dasler said. "This type of finish is fantastic for first year players. Other coaches know both the grit and consistency that these new players have added to Lakeland's tennis."
As for the doubles teams, Lakeland couldn't put together the success of the singles players, each team falling in their third place matches.
At No. 1, Tony Holmes and Zach Kane took on the top seeded pair of Ben Bartletti and Drew Schwartz, falling 6-1, 6-0. In the third place match, they faced Jake Merril and Carter Ray of Medford, again falling, 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 to the Raiders pair.
"There were solid teams coming into the meet at No. 1 doubles. While they lost in straight sets to the top seed, they gave Medford a tough time taking the second set 7-5 before falling in the third," Dasler said.
Josh Kakuschke and Alex Tucker, at No. 2 doubles, took on the Rhinelander pair of Connor Young and Jared Haug, falling 6-0, 6-1 before dropping their third place match against Medford, 6-0, 6-2.
Sam Berger and Jayson Krause competed at No. 3 doubles, fell to Rhinelander in their opener, 6-0, 6-0. In their third place match, the pair fell to Medford 6-0, 6-4.
"Sam and Jayson came out late in the season missing the first few games but their improvement has been dramatic," Dasler said. "You can see with the experience that they are becoming more and more competitive. I'm really delighted that they have come out for the team and excited about the progress they are making."
While the team didn't always have success, Dasler said the road ahead looks good.
"Overall, we started the year short three players and that hurt our team totals, but I really like the group we have," he said. "They are all willing workers and the future looks bright."
Ben Gauger may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.