Sometimes you need a bigger dream.
The Mounds View boys' tennis team learned this last spring. After two consecutive section final losses to Maple Grove, the Mustangs achieved redemption with a victory against the Crimson and a state tournament berth. An inability to refocus, however, resulted in Mounds View, the No. 1 seed, falling in the quarterfinals to unseeded East Ridge.
"It's definitely something that's still there, but at this point it's there as motivation more than anything else," said senior captain Carter Jones, part of Mounds View's No. 1 doubles team. "We celebrate our accomplishments, but we know that our bigger goal is still ahead of us. We still have a lot of work to put in if we want to achieve what has been our ultimate goal since the beginning of the season — to win a state championship."
The top-ranked Mustangs (19-1) defeated Maple Grove 5-2 in the Section 5 final last week, clinching the match in less than one hour. They will open Class 2A state tournament play on June 2 at the University of Minnesota Baseline Tennis Center. Seeding and brackets will be announced Thursday. Mounds View, making its 12th trip to state in the past 14 seasons, last won state titles in 2004 and 2005.
Establishing themselves against some of the state's best competition, the Mustangs won the prestigious John Rowe Invitational, hosted by Edina, for the second consecutive season. Mounds View blanked Minneapolis Washburn 7-0, edged two-time defending Class 1A state champion Blake 4-3 in the semifinals and topped East Ridge 4-3 for the championship.
"Beating Blake, who was undefeated at that point, and then winning the tournament — that helped boost our confidence," said senior Andrew Tang, part of the No. 3 doubles team.
Defeating East Ridge, a Suburban East Conference opponent, twice this season "was a little revenge," Tang said. "And it got us the conference title, too."
Superior doubles play fueled Mounds View's success. The No. 1 tandem of Jones and fellow senior Abraham Alex swept the competition at the John Rowe Invitational. So did the No. 3 doubles team of Tang and eighth-grader Michael Cao.
The doubles teams ripped through Maple Grove last week in the section final, all winning in straight sets and dropping a total of one game.
Depth at the singles positions has helped, Mounds View coach Mike Cartwright said. Junior Jake Trondson and senior Hunter Krebsbach hold down the top two spots and a pair of youngsters in seventh-grader Hunter Heck and eighth-grader Petro Alex are tough beyond their years. Both went 3-0 at the Edina tournament and beat the Maple Grove counterparts in straight sets.
But Cartwright used "special" to describe the doubles corps, which includes sophomore Michael Conlin-Brandenburg and junior Samuel Hohenshell at the second position.
"Doubles has carried us a lot this year," he said.
A year ago, Mounds View held the No. 1 ranking, triumphed at Edina's tournament, defeated Maple Grove to qualify for state and then faltered. Winning the consolation title provided none. So players are daring to dream even bigger this time.
"Our focus last year was getting back to state," Cartwright said. "We kind of lost our focus a little bit after that. Now we're back with an opportunity to have a better state tournament experience and we want to make the most of it. There are so many guys who experienced last year painfully and just do not want to repeat that."
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574