That winning feeling has returned to the Mounds View boys’ tennis team.
After losing 4-3 to Maple Grove in the Class 2A, Section 5 championship match in each of the past two seasons, the Mustangs overcame their nemesis with a 6-1 victory on May 20. Mounds View, with a 21-2 record and ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ poll, will play in the state tournament June 3-4 at the University of Minnesota Baseline Tennis Center.
The Mustangs had made 10 consecutive trips to the state tournament before their back-to-back ousters by the Crimson. Yet another 4-3 defeat at the hands of Maple Grove on April 19 served as a motivating force, Mustangs coach Mike Cartwright said.
“The offseason is when you develop skills,’’ Cartwright said. “During the season you focus more on mental and emotional development. So it helped to play Maple Grove earlier in the season. It gave us a rally point at practice.”
As expected, both teams reached the Section 5 championship. Mounds View was the No. 2 seed in the section behind Maple Grove, the second-ranked team in the state. For the Mustangs to win, they needed to break Maple Grove’s dominance in singles. The Crimson swept all four singles points each of the past two years.
Mounds View senior Carter Jones and juniors Hunter Krebsbach and Henry Morris talked about their mission to defeat Maple Grove, how they finished the job and their outlook for the state tournament.
Jones, a No. 1 doubles player: “Talking to our singles players before the Maple Grove match, they were more focused than I’ve ever seen.”
Krebsbach, a No. 2 singles player: “Scott Sundstrom, our new B-squad coach, told us their singles players knew we would win all three doubles matches so if one of them choked, Maple Grove’s whole team would choke. He said, ‘Stay with them, be consistent and make it a dogfight.’ ”
Krebsbach’s opponent, Charlie Adkins, defeated him in April. Krebsbach started the rematch with a 6-4 first-set victory.
Krebsbach: “All of our singles players except me lost their first set. So I told myself I could do it. [Adkins] is a great player, so I had to be willing to do everything to win. If the match took three hours, that’s what it would take.”
Morris and Jones, the Mustangs’ No. 1 doubles team, won their match for a 2-0 overall lead.
Morris: “We saw this huge crowd where the singles players were. We walked over there and one of our teammates said Hunter was up 5-2 in the second set. He won [6-2] and right then we let out a huge roar because we knew third doubles was in control and that we’d win the match and go to state.”
Indeed, Petro Alex and Andrew Tang won at third doubles to clinch Mounds View’s first state tournament appearance in three years.
Morris: “Losing sophomore year, it felt like we let down the Mounds View legacy. Then we lost again last year and we were like, ‘Geez, is this going to be a pattern?’ So it feels good to be at the level we should be.”
Mounds View beat top-10 teams such as Edina, Hopkins and Wayzata this season. The Mustangs, despite having no ranked players, are favored to win the state tournament.
Morris: “Our team is very confident right now because we’ve beaten a lot of top-10 teams. At the same time, there are countless stories in sports of Cinderella teams. If we prepare poorly, we can get knocked off.”
Krebsbach: “We can’t get too cocky, but we are focused. Like Coach Cartwright said after the Maple Grove match, ‘You proved you were No. 1.’ ”