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Shorthanded netters go 1-1

With partner Cole Peters in the foreground, Jack Guerkink prepares his racket for the return of serve on the way to their win over their Sussex Hamilton Charger opponents Saturday, April 21, in Oconomowoc. Submitted photo.

This hasn't been an ideal spring for high school athletes, and that's why the Raider boys tennis team was thrilled to finally play outside at the Oconomowoc Quad Saturday, April 21.

Actually, Oconomowoc wasn't even able to host its own tournament because of last weekend's snowstorm, so the event was moved to nearby Sussex Hamilton High School, where the Raiders posted a record of 1-1 in the great outdoors.

To complicate matters, Hudson was limited to just 11 of its top 20 varsity players when the rest stayed home for Saturday's high school prom.

Head coach John Knutson had no problems with his missing players' decision.

"I always tell the athletes, there's more to life than tennis, because I know how important prom is to them," Knutson said. "Honestly I'm happy that they can be involved in all the extra-curricular activities at the school; it's what makes the memories during high school. Having said that, I have to be honest and say that playing in a tournament with teams near Milwaukee with half your varsity squad missing is like fighting with one hand tied behind your back. You can win, but it sure makes it tougher."

The shorthanded Raiders were able to prevail in their first match of the day, beating Sussex Hamilton, 6-1. But Oconomowoc proved to be a tougher opponent by defeating Hudson, 5-2.

"We knew we'd play some great players and teams when we came east to Milwaukee to play in this Oconomowoc tournament, and while the Sussex Hamilton matchup was an easy win for us, the Germantown loss was humbling," Knutson said.

The Raiders swept all four singles matches and took two of three in doubles in their 6-1 win over Sussex Hamilton.

Tyler Grosz won 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 singles, Jacob Grosz and Andrew Bolles posted identical 6-0, 6-0 sweeps at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively, while Luke Holmberg pulled out a 6-2, 7-6 tiebreak win at the No. 4 singles spot.

Hudson's top two doubles teams were missing due to prom, but the regular No. 3 duo of Cole Peters and Jack Guerkink stepped up to post a 6-4, 6-2 win at the No. 1 spot, and Tyler Schwab and Kade Nickerson earned a 6-3, 7-6 tiebreak win at No. 2.

Later in the day against Germantown, the Raiders lost a pair of tiebreakers, including at No. 1 singles where Tyler Grosz won his first set, 6-0, before battling cramps the rest of the match.

Hudson's wins came from Jacob Grosz at No. 2 singles, 6-2, 6-4, and Schwab and Nickerson at No. 2 doubles, 7-5, 6-4.

Despite being short-handed, Knutson wasn't making excuses for the loss.

"With the lineup that we had for the weekend, we still should have beaten Germantown," he said. "At No. 1 Singles, we were dominating until our player developed a recurring problem with cramping. We also lost our three singles match in a third set tie break. Had we won those two matches, we'd have topped Germantown 4-3 and won the match. We needed those upperclassmen and experienced players to come through for us in order to win, but that's the way it goes some days."

The Raiders are scheduled to open Big Rivers Conference play Thursday, April 26 at Chippewa Falls and will visit Menomonie in a makeup match Tuesday, May 1.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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