22 March 2014

Boys Tennis: Experience at the top should help

2013 MVP Bennett Lagro returns at No. 1 singles
The 2014 FHS boys tennis roster will look like much that of 2013 but while most of the names remain the same, the season outlook looks appears much brighter than a year ago.

"Our experience should be one of our strengths," coach Jack Olwell said. "We return players at the top of the singles and doubles lineup so we will be trying to find combinations that strengthen us. Also, we have a number of players who have worked hard over the winter and should enjoy a great season."

 Heading the list of returnees is a singles lineup consisting of sophomore Bennett Lagro at the top spot followed in order by freshman Jake Bauer, and seniors Ivan Rodriguez and Jon Zakoski.

Lagro, the returning team MVP, received all-Missota Conference honorable mention last year. Bauer was the Player of the Year in 2013, the same honor Rodriguez received in 2012.

The doubles team of seniors Austin Tremmel and Trent Kortenbusch will likely start the season as the Tigers' top doubles tandem.

Sophomore Grady Hauswirth will move from singles to doubles this spring and pair up with junior Garrett Brown. Senior Jake Spindler is also a doubles candidate as are sophomores Derek Cole and Cooper Erickson.

Jake Bauer was 2013 Player of the Year
"It also looks like we will have four or five newcomers who may have a shot at getting into our lineup," Olwell said.

Seniors Zakoski, Tremmel and Kortenbusch will serve as tri-captains this season.

Olwell said he knows that several of his players have strengthened their game over the off-season. Now it's a matter of seeing how much.

"The question is did we keep pace with the other conference teams,"he said. "I believe we have, but we'll see." 

Olwell said as usual the Missota with Shakopee, Chaska and Red Wing all returning veteran lineups and Northfield a short step behind them will be ultra-competitive. Perennial state power Rochester Mayo is the odds-on favorite to win Section 1AA honors.

"We're looking for a top five finish in the conference and an improvement in the section," he said. "The key there is getting an opening round home match. That's one of our goals."

Entering his 35th season as varsity coach and with assistants Jon Malin and Joe "Doc" Emond having 30 and seven years under their respective belts, Olwell says he no doubt has the most experienced coaching staff in the state.

The Tigers will ignore the snow and practice on the shoveled-off Empire Township parking lot until they can get on their own courts at Boeckeman Middle School.

"Some of our opponents are already holding captains' practice at Lifetime Fitness, so that obviously is a head start," Olwell said. "We don't have that luxury for most of our players."

The Tigers are scheduled to start their outdoor season Monday, April 7, with a home match against Lakeville South.