Eagan battles highly ranked tennis teams
Wildcats’ record includes victory over No. 4 Mahtomedi
Eagan has played some of the state’s best high school boys tennis teams already this spring, and while it left the Wildcats with a few marks, they believe it will help them long-term.
The Wildcats are 6-2 after defeating Bloomington Kennedy 7-0 in a South Suburban Conference match Tuesday. Their record includes a 5-2 victory over Mahtomedi, which was ranked fourth in the preseason Class AA state rankings.
The win against Mahtomedi took place at the rain-shortened Wildcat Invitational on Saturday. Eagan beat Mahtomedi in its opening match, was rained out in its second match against Red Wing and lost 5-2 to fifth-ranked Elk River after the tournament was moved to indoor courts in Lakeville.
“We played really well against Mahtomedi after a tough loss to (Bloomington) Jefferson the night before,” Eagan coach Scott Nichols said. “We played well against Red Wing before the rains came. Elk River was the class of the tournament. We played as well as we could have against them.”
The Wildcats also last week got a look at a team that could be one of its main competitors for the Section 3AA championship. Jefferson defeated Eagan 4-3 on April 20, winning three singles matches and one in doubles.
“We thought that match could be for the conference championship,” Nichols said. “We lost 7-5 in the third set at No. 1 doubles. Jefferson has an outstanding singles lineup. We were lucky to get a point (in singles). With their singles lineup, Jefferson could be a top-five team in the state.”
Eagan also can send out a strong lineup. The Wildcats return singles players Brady Radermacher, Zach Ekstein and Drew Nichols, who play in the top three spots.
Last year Ekstein, a sophomore, switched to doubles for the section individual tournament. He and Brendan Hollidge, who has since graduated, qualified for the state tournament.
Ekstein won his first seven matches at No. 2 singles this spring. Radermacher, Drew Nichols and senior Simon Barnicle all were 4-3 in singles.
Ben Ekstein, Zach’s older brother, plays No. 1 doubles with fellow senior Brandon Vuong. Senior Andrew Finnegan and junior Dylan Mannetter were 6-1 at second doubles, while senior Drew Lockhart and junior Ryan Ossell were undefeated (7-0) at third doubles.
“I think our doubles lineup is pretty much solidified,” Scott Nichols said. “Simon Barnicle played doubles for us last year, moved to singles this year and has done a good job for us.”
While Jefferson and Eagan might have established themselves as favorites in next month’s section team tournament, several other teams could be factors, Scott Nichols said.
“We beat Rosemount 6-1, but Rosemount has a foreign exchange student at No. 1 singles and I think they’re going to be dangerous,” Nichols said. “Eastview and Apple Valley are always tough. We played Valley in the section final two years ago. Eastview has lost some players from last year, but they’ve got a great coach and good talent.”
For the Wildcats, postseason success might come down to identifying their strengths and attacking opponents’ weaknesses.
“We don’t touch the players’ mechanics much at this level,” Scott Nichols said. “But I’ve been coaching high school tennis for 22 years and I think one of my strengths is helping players with their strategy.”
Eagan will have home matches against St. Thomas Academy on Monday, Apple Valley on Tuesday and Eastview on May 3, all at the Northview Park courts.