Eagan returning to state tennis tourney
Wildcats win 3rd section title in 4 years
It was all set up for the best player on each team to square off with the Section 3AA boys tennis team championship on the line. But Eagan junior Drew Nichols foiled the plan, and the Wildcats didn’t mind one bit.
Nichols’ three-set victory at third singles gave Eagan its fourth point in a 4-3 victory over Bloomington Jefferson in the section final Wednesday afternoon. The Wildcats earned their third trip to the state Class AA team tournament in four years, and will play defending champion Rochester Mayo in the quarterfinals at 2 p.m. June 5 at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center.
The section final was to be played outdoors, but windy conditions and the threat of thunderstorms forced it to be moved to the Fred Wells Tennis Center at Fort Snelling, where only six indoor courts were available. The coaches and tournament manager agreed to delay the No. 1 singles match until after one of the other six matches ended, making it possible for Eagan’s Brady Radermacher and Jefferson’s Luke Robertson to be the only players left on the court with the section title still undecided.
Section tournament manager and former Eagan boys coach Mike Remington said that scenario was a legitimate possibility, considering the teams played a 4-3 match in the regular season, with Jefferson winning.
This time, however, Eagan won four of the first five matches to be completed, with Nichols’ 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Joshua Punnoose closing the door on the Jaguars.
“By the third set, I couldn’t watch anymore,” said Scott Nichols, Drew’s father and Eagan’s head coach. “I had to go watch No. 1 singles in the other bubble.”
Zach Ekstein improved to 21-0 at No. 2 singles with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) victory.
Ben Ekstein and Brandon Vuong won in straight sets at No. 1 doubles, as did Andrew Finnegan and Dylan Mannetter at second doubles.
Eagan’s Ryan Ossell and Dominic Carlisano took their No. 3 doubles match to a third-set tiebreaker before losing 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5). Simon Barnicle lost in straight sets at fourth singles.
Robertson defeated Radermacher 5-7, 6-2, 10-8, with the third set shortened to a super tiebreaker because the team championship had already been decided.
Bloomington Jefferson won the South Suburban Conference championship, with the decisive match being its victory over Eagan.
“Jefferson is tough at home. They have great fans,” Scott Nichols said. “It’s tough to play at their place. But I also think it was good for our kids to play in front of a lot of people, and I think it helped us (in the section final).
“Jefferson deserved to win the conference championship. But if I have to choose between the conference title and section title, I’ll take this.”
The Section 3AA singles and doubles tournaments are scheduled to begin Friday at Life Time Fitness in Lakeville.
Robertson, Henry Sibley senior Matt Schull, Rosemount sophomore exchange student Andreas Dinkelmeyer and Radermacher are the top four seeds in singles.
Tim Larson and Matthew McNutt of Jefferson are the top-seeded doubles team, with Apple Valley seniors Sam Hoyt and Tanner Rayman seeded second.
Championship matches in the section singles and doubles tournaments are scheduled May 30, with winners and second-place finishers advancing to the state tournament June 7-8.