With a little meteorological good fortune, the Maple Grove boys’ tennis team will make its debut on the court later this week.
The Crimson will start fast, playing Wayzata on Thursday and taking part in the prestigious Edina Invitational on Saturday – a first for a program getting used to breaking new ground.
Last season, Maple Grove overthrew Mounds View 4-3 in the Class 2A, Section 5 championship match to reach its first-ever state tournament. The Crimson, which returns the entire singles lineup plus the foundation of three solid doubles teams, hopes to make it an annual event.
“I think Mounds View is going to have some trouble in Section 5 the next few years,” Crimson coach J.C. Lippold said.
Mounds View, a perennial power, will also take part in the Edina Invitational along with the host Hornets, Wayzata, Blake, Breck, Mahtomedi and Rochester Mayo – Maple Grove’s first opponent Saturday.
“I told their coaches, ‘I think we’re going to be the type of team you’re looking for,’” Lippold said. “Our guys are all healthy, young and positive.”
That’s a good thing considering Lippold said his team is scheduled “to play five days a week, plus Saturday tournaments, for the next three weeks” to offset the weather ruining a portion of the season to date.
The Crimson’s strength at the singles positions starts with brothers Zachary and Charlie Adkins at Nos. 1 and 2. Eighth-grader Sam Hochberger, No. 3, and freshman Rory Calabria, No. 4, showed veteran poise last spring by winning their matches to clinch the victory against Mounds View.
Lippold is not concerned about adverse weather preventing his youngsters from charging from the gate. He said he has been “very deliberate to not push harder than we should right now.”
For all his team’s potential, he added, “We are not saying that if we don’t win state it’s a loss. These guys just love being around each other.”
It’s seniors such as Trevor Kleineschay and Derrick Marvin, who are watching their season tick away, who have their coach’s pity.
Kleineschay has been content to play strong tennis wherever needed, while younger teammates have taken more visible roles. As a sophomore, Kleineschay went 23-4 at first doubles. He played second doubles and finished 26-2 to help push the Crimson to state last spring. He will play at third doubles this season.
“All he does is keep on winning,” Lippold said.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574