The massage helped. The ice bath did, too. But in the end, it was little more than sheer grit that lifted Minnetonka junior Joey Richards to victory Friday in the Class 2A state singles final.
Richards, playing his fourth three-set match — and seventh overall — in four days, defeated Forest Lake sophomore Toby Boyer in an entertaining match, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center.
Richards’ slight build — 5-10 and 130 pounds “on a good day,” he joked — belied his ability to fight off the best his opponents had to offer.
“One of the amazing things was how he was able to come back and play his best even though he was sore,” Minnetonka coach David Stearns said. “We got him stretched out and he came back ready to go.”
During a three-set match in the quarterfinals, Richards found rejuvenation in a massage from his father before the final set. Thursday night, he prepared by taking just the second ice bath of his life.
“That wasn’t fun,” Richards said. “But I did what I had to do.”
It paid off in Friday’s semifinal as he soundly defeated Edina’s Max Olson, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, 6-0, 6-1. That set up the championship match against Boyer, brother of four-time recent state champion Dusty Boyer.
Richards and Boyer had never met in a high school match even though they have been friends — and youth tennis foes — for nearly a decade. Friday’s match featured two vastly different styles of play. On one side was Boyer, whose powerful forehand and athleticism reminded one of older brother Dusty. On the other side was Richards, with a deliberate, consistent style and a willingness to force the issue by coming to the net.
Momentum bounced back and forth from the outset. Richards, taking advantage of Boyer’s aggressiveness, won the first three games. Boyer then cranked up the pressure and won five of the next six games before Richards regained control, winning the set with three straight victories.
In the second set Boyer was nearly untouchable, bombing his way to a 5-1 lead en route to a 6-3 victory.
“I thought I was going to win then,” Boyer said. “But he’s so good and he just kept getting everything back.”
The final set pingponged back and forth, with Boyer seeming to gain control in taking a 5-4 lead. But Richards, as he had done so often in the tournament, fought back, winning the final three games as Boyer, his legs beginning to cramp, made critical mistakes.
“After the first set, actually, I didn’t think I had anything left,” Richards said. “But this is a dream of mine. I just told myself to keep playing, not give up. I should be tired but I feel pretty good right now.”
In doubles, senior Jack Graven and sophomore Nick Beaty, who had never played together until the Section 6 tournament, defeated St. Paul Highland Park’s Maalik Konop-DeFreitas and Aren Wilson 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 for Wayzata’s second state championship of the week.
“We jelled together pretty quickly,” Graven. “I’ve played doubles for five years, so I gave him a few pointers, but he’s a great singles player. He picked it up pretty quickly.”
To Graven, the victory held a bit more meaning. He had missed much of the season battling mononucleosis.
“There are no words for it,” he said. “To win the team championship and the doubles championship in the same year? It gives me goose bumps.”