Long before the Oakland Raiders made Ryan Hoag "Mr. Irrelevant" as the final pick in the 2003 NFL draft, he was a significant piece of Minneapolis Washburn's boys' tennis team. He was a sophomore in 1996 when the Millers defeated Minneapolis South for city pride.
Washburn had fallen in every match against the Tigers since, until last week in a 4-3 upset victory.
"It was a special, special moment," said Hoag, now the Millers coach. "South is one of the premier programs in our conference and our section and has been for a number of years. We were heavy underdogs, but somehow, some way our guys wanted it more and played the match of their lives."
The biggest surprise came at No. 1 doubles, where freshman Jacob Toffler and sophomore Sebastian Malewicz pulled out a 7-5, 6-3 victory over their South counterparts, which included Luke Elifson. He represented half of last year's Class 2A state championship doubles team.
"A pleasant surprise," Hoag said. "That was not expected by any means."
The deciding point came at No. 2 doubles, where the team's only senior, Varo Zembryki, teamed up with Sam Smith for the clincher.
"I told the team, this ranks right up there with any moment in my career involved with athletics," Hoag said. "The first couple of years I was here [as coach] teams didn't pay attention to us at all. The kids have worked so hard."