Some teams shy away from discussing their success during the season. The No. 1-ranked and undefeated Elk River boys' tennis team is an exception.
"We talk about it every day at practice or before matches," senior captain Mitchel Brandell said. "We have something really special this year. But we don't want anything to go to our heads or get in the way of winning it all."
Brandell, who ranks second in program history in victories, anchors the No. 1 doubles position for the Elks (25-0). Top-seed Elk River played either No. 4 seed Andover or No. 5 seed Cambridge-Isanti in the Class 2A, Section 7 South subsection semifinals on Tuesday after this edition of Star Tribune North went to press.
Elk River's success starts with twins Josh and Sam Gearou at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively. Ryan Ness plays No. 3 singles while either Josh Chuba or Matt Odegard takes the No. 4 position.
Either Chuba or Odegard joins Brandell at first doubles. Jesse Bragg and Dylan Berger play No. 2 doubles and Nathan Chantha- montry and Steve Delain hold down the third spot.
Brandell, who plans to play tennis next season at Tyler Junior College in Texas, spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about maintaining focus, the key victory of the season and the Elks' pride in their blue-collar identity.
Q What role do you play in making sure the team keeps the right mindset?
A I just encourage everybody to do what they are supposed to be doing. I also try to keep myself focused and motivated and the guys help me with that as well.
Q I wondered if this year's strong season started last year when you and Ryan Ness played the Gearou twins for the Class 2A state doubles consolation title. Throw in Chuba making state in singles and you've got five pretty good players.
A Coach [Randy] Ronning has talked about how he's been looking forward to this season. I know a lot of the guys worked really hard over the summer.
Q You hear about teams that have a loss that helps get them back on track or takes the pressure off. You guys have not lost, so how do you keep those same ideas in mind?
A We haven't really laid any eggs so it's kind of hard to say. We just try to improve in practice and get better.
Q Which victory gave you the confidence that this team is capable of something special?
A Probably beating Wayzata [6-1 on April 23]. They were No. 2 or 3 in the rankings so we knew they were pretty good. I think I got 12 or 13 text messages from guys on the team that day saying things like 'Drink lots of water before the match,' or other things to make sure we were prepared. It was nice to see the guys were really pumped for a tough match.
Q You guys remind me of the Anoka boys' soccer team that won the state title in 2007. No one expects teams from the north metro to be really strong in sports such as soccer or tennis. Heard some of that?
A Our coach got texts upon texts saying things like 'Wow, look at the blue-collar team' or 'We're glad to see you have the No. 1 ranking instead of those private schools and cake-eaters.' We all laughed.
Q Are you pretty blue-collar?
A I mean, every town has its rich people. But in Sherburne County, it's mostly blue-collar people.