Charlie Adams of Blake celebrated after a point against Myles Tang of Breck. Adams beat Tang 6-1, 6-3. (Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune photo)
While their classmates were enjoying spring break, the Wayzata boys’ tennis team was shoveling snow off courts. After matches — victories, mind you — the Trojans were running miles. Practices were intense, the coach even moreso.
Those sacrifices now seem insignificant in light of Wayzata’s dominating performance in the boys’ Class 2A tennis state tournament. The Trojans did not lose a match in the entire tournament, peaking at precisely the right moment in beating Maple Grove in the semifinals and Minnetonka the final on Wednesday by identical 7-0 scores.
“All the shoveling and running and drills, it was all for a reason, to do this,” senior Dustin Britton said. “This feels pretty good.”
Coach Jeff Prondzinski knew coming into the season that Wayzata had enough talent to win a state title. The Trojans had been runners-up in each of the past two seasons, including a 2012 campaign accomplished with Britton, their No. 1 singles player, sidelined all season because of a shoulder injury. Prondzinski, who coached Winona Cotter to a Class 1A state title in 1999 (incidentally, the last year Wayzata won the 2A championship), wasn’t about to let the opportunity slide by.
“We had the talent, that was obvious, but we had to make sure we were focused and playing our best,” Prondzinski said. “Sometimes you can win on talent alone and not be playing the best you can play.”
That Wayzata was ranked No. 1 in Class 2A all season was just more fuel for the fire. Expectations were high, but Prondzinski’s were higher.
“He pushed us, but that was because he wanted the best from us,” senior doubles specialist Jack Graven said.
For Britton, the victory provided the last bit of salve needed to heal wounds from a difficult junior year. His injured right shoulder forced him to watch helplessly as the Trojans came up just short in the 2012 final. That, Britton said, was almost too much to bear.
“That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, to just watch our team compete as hard as they did and feel that I could have contributed something,” Britton said. “We ended up wearing red ribbons instead of the blue ones we wanted. Right then and there, Pronds and I decided it wasn’t going to end that way again.”
Britton’s match at No. 1 singles in the final encapsulated the determination that defined the 2013 Trojans. After beating Minnetonka’s Joel Richards 6-3 in the first set, he fell behind 5-0 in the second before digging deep and rallying to win 7-6.
Britton paused when asked about the way he won, then nodded slowly and smiled in agreement. “Yeah, I can see that,” he said. “It just shows how bad we wanted this. This is what we hoped for all season.”
Class 1A: Blake’s turn
They play with each other routinely, in clubs and tournaments throughout the year, and consider each other friends.
That is, until they square off during the high school season. Then things change. Friendships are set aside and the rivalry between Blake and Breck is all that matters.
“In every sport, we’re compared to Breck,” Blake sophomore Charlie Adams said. “When we play each other, we’re not friends anymore. They’re the enemy.”
As if the rivalry alone wasn’t enough, Blake and Breck played each other Wednesday at the Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center with the Class 1A state championship at stake, adding another level of intrigue to their long history.
This time, it was Blake that snagged the bragging rights. The Bears cruised to a 6-1 victory, denying the Mustangs’ their third consecutive team championship.
Blake’s triumph was determined by their singles lineup as they swept all four matches, adding victories at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles.
The most noteable came at No. 1 singles, where Adams beat Myles Tang, the winner of the past two Class 1A championships, 6-1, 6-3. The match likely was a preview of Friday’s singles final: Adams is seeded No. 1 in the tourney while Tang, who was battling a severe illness that sent him to a hospital Tuesday evening with a temperature of more than 103 degrees, is seeded No. 2.
But an individual championship was the last thing on Adams’ mind. His sights were set on helping Blake to its 14th boys’ tennis state championship.
“It’s all for the team. That’s the most important thing,” he said. “Everything else just follows. There’s nothing better than beating Breck.”