Patrick Gallagher took part in Anoka’s first tennis section playoff victory since 2007. Though his Tornadoes later were eliminated, Gallagher can break another long futility streak later this week.
No Anoka player has reached the Class 2A state tournament since Grant Leisner in 2010. This spring Leisner returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach. Gallagher, a senior in his fourth year at No. 1 singles, responded to Leisner’s tutelage by producing a 19-2 record thus far. He was ranked No. 9 in the most recent coaches poll.
The Section 5 singles draw will be seeded Wednesday.
Gallagher spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about learning to love tennis at an early age, important matches this season and the satisfaction of leaving the program in a much better place than when he started.
Q: How did you get into tennis?
A: My sister played, so my mom started me in lessons when I was 6 years old. I didn’t really want to, because I didn’t really know how to play and the whole sport was new to me. But they talked me into it.
Q: How long before you realized you enjoyed the sport?
A: I enjoyed it right away. The lessons I used to go to were at Anoka, and they were a lot of fun.
Q: What were the pros and cons of playing first singles as a freshman?
A: I remember losing, and the rest of the players on my team would win their matches. Or we’d win 4-3, but I would lose. So it was tough. But the whole team supported me, and I appreciated that. And my parents and coaches were supportive, too.
Q: What did you do to prepare for a strong senior season?
A: I got better over the winter. I did drills at Life Time Fitness in Fridley. The coach there was a good guy. I didn’t play many tournaments, but I think all the time I’ve played varsity tennis gave me good experience.
Q: How realistic are your chances of going to state, given what you know about the other singles players in Section 5?
A: I think I have a chance, but it could go either way. I’m hoping to be there at the end.
Q: What did you learn from a close three-set loss to Sam Gearou of Elk River/Zimmerman?
A: I took away a lot. That was kind of the first tough match I had all year, and I learned a lot about my game and what to work on.
Q: Which of your 19 victories taught you the most?
A: Sam Hochberger from Maple Grove. I beat him in three sets during the regular season, and I think he was ranked eighth at that time. That was a long match, and it showed me I can pull off a big win. That was the victory that brought me into the rankings.
Q: How did it feel to be ranked?
A: I was pretty proud. I’ve always had the dream of being a good tennis player. So that was fun to see.
Q: How have you benefited from working with Grant?
A: He’s helped my ground strokes and serve a lot. I’ve got a lot more power, and I’m more consistent. Mentally, I can stay in matches better and not break down. He’s helped me keep up the intensity.
Q: Your sophomore year, there were 11 players out for tennis, and the team won just one match. This year there are 32 kids, and you won eight matches. How gratifying is it to see that progress?
A: It feels really good. The players coming out are good guys, and they are attracting friends to play. And the varsity team won our first section playoff match in a while. So that just shows the whole team is improving. I’ve noticed more heart this year, and that’s really enjoyable to see.
David La Vaque