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Edina's No.1 singles player Max Olson served to Rochester Mayo's T. Connor Shives during a match at the Edina Community Center in April 2012. Photo: Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune * bbisping@startribune.com

Next man up?

For the better part of the last decade, boys’ tennis has been driven by star power. Going back to 2006, when Buffalo’s Michael Sicora won the first of his two Class 2A titles, there has been an elite level player at the top. It culminated in 2012 when Forest Lake’s Dusty Boyer won his state-record fourth consecutive championship. Boyer’s graduation has left a wide-open Class 2A field. There is plenty of talent — Edina’s Max Olson, Minneapolis South’s Jesse Sprinkel, Minnetonka’s Joey Richards and Hopkins’ Manfred Barrios are among the contenders — but no clear favorite in what promises to be a weather-shortened season.

Can Elk River defend?

The defending Class 2A champions struck a blow for teams that dream big, winning 31 consecutive matches to wrest the title away from the traditional powers. The Elks lost six seniors but return a strong singles lineup led by sophomores Josh and Sam Gearou. A big question is whether coach Randy Ronning can put together a solid doubles lineup to offset the losses. “Our JV was 17-3 [last year] and we move up some strong young players for this year,” Ronning said. “We are not nearly as experienced as last year, but quite skilled.”

Annie Seng joins the boys

In 2011, Rochester Mayo’s Ingrid Neel made headlines as a girl playing a pivotal role in the Spartans’ run to the Class 2A boys’ team championship. This year, St. Paul Highland Park senior Annie Seng is taking the plunge into boys’ tennis.

“I was really excited at the opportunity to have Danny Wilson as my tennis coach,” Seng said. “He is an excellent tennis coach and completely changed the team’s motivation. This team plays with more energy than any other tennis program I know. You don’t often get to watch a tennis match filled with as much cheering as Highland Park. Everyone is always … rooting for each other and really acting like a team. It’s something I really wanted to be a part of.”

JIM PAULSEN

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