Boys' Tennis: Hastings is Metro East Conference champions
The Hastings Raiders boys' tennis team clinched its first outright Metro East Conference championship with back-to-back sweeps of Hill-Murray and Mahtomedi on Friday. The Raiders finished the season undefeated, the big win coming over Mahtomedi against whom Hastings lost to last year for the conference championship. It has been the Zephyrs and Raiders at the top of the conference the last several years and the two teams have even shared a conference title in the past.
The Raiders finish the regular season 15-1 overall and 8-0 in the MEC. Hastings now heads to the section 3AA playoffs, in which they are the No. 3 seed and have a first-round bye. They will face the winner of Park and Woodbury on Thursday, May 17, at 3:30 p.m. in Hastings. The winner of that match would go on to face either No. 2-seeded Eastview or the winner of Cretin-Derham Hall and Henry Sibley on Monday at 3:30 p.m. at Simley.
Hastings' singles players only allowed six points combined against the Pioneers. Sophomore Colby Zak won No. 1 singles 6-0, 6-3 and senior Grant Hollar took No. 2 singles 6-1, 6-0. Senior Brandon Kurilla shutout his opponent at No. 3 singles 6-0, 6-0 and junior James Scharr won No. 4 singles 6-1, 6-1.
The Raiders doubles teams were just as good, only giving up five points total. Senior Joe Zak and junior Carson Konrady won No. 1 doubles 6-1, 6-2, while senior John Rupp and junior Matt Schlottman took No. 2 doubles 6-, 6-0. The team of juniors Brian Nielsen and Eric Howd swept No. 3 doubles 6-0, 6-0.
In exhibition matches, senior Deck Whyle won a singles match 7-2 and fellow senior Sam Poncelet won a singles match 3-1.
After losing the conference championship to Mahtomedi last season, head coach Mick Willette said his team came out with a chip on their shoulders to show that they are the better team and boy did they prove it. Hastings swept the Zephyrs 7-0 and dropped just three sets out of seven matches.
Colby Zak won No. 1 singles 6-1, 4-6(10-5) and Hollar breezed in No. 2 singles with a 6-1, 6-1 win. Kurilla also won convincingly at No. 3 singles 6-1, 6-2 and Scharr won No. 4 singles 7-5, 3-6(7-4). For doubles, Joe Zak and Konrady won No. 1 doubles 6-2, 5-7(10-6), Rupp and Schlottman took No. 2 doubles 6-2, 7-5 and Nielsen and Howd sealed the sweep at No. 3 doubles 6-1, 6-2. In exhibition matches, senior Beau Peine fell in a singles match 8-3, while Whyle and Poncelet won a doubles matches 8-1.
Willette said it was satisfying for his team as it has been a goal they have been building toward for several years. As for how his team is playing heading into sections, Willette said they have been improving gradually the entire season.
"I feel like we've been on a steady rise, gaining more confidence with each match," he said.
He also said that in the days leading up to Thursday, the plan is to continue to work on several things with his team, including serving and receiving, footwork, staying on balance and finishing points by moving up to the net in the singles matches.