Edina Boys Tennis Team #1 singles Max Olson served to Rochester Mayo's T. Connor Shives during a match at the Edina Community Center on 4/20/12.
There is anticipation in tennis circles. And hope. And curiosity. All buoyed by the boys’ tennis state tournament, which begins Tuesday and, for the first time in four years, lacks a favorite to win the tourney’s highest-profile event, the Class 2A singles championship.
Forest Lake’s Dusty Boyer won his state-record fourth consecutive title last year, then graduated and took his game to the University of Nebraska.
In his place is a slew of high-quality players, all of whom can claim a legitimate shot at winning a crown.
“Absolutely it’s more interesting,” Edina coach Gary Aasen said. “There are a lot of really good players involved. Even if they don’t think they can win it, there are guys who think they can get to the semifinals or finals. There’s a lot more hunger.”
If a favorite had be determined, it would be Edina junior Max Olson. A 6-3 righthander with a powerful serve and deft hands around the net, Olson earned the tournament’s No. 1 seed in this, the first year that the Minnesota State High School League has seeded the tournament.
“I wouldn’t say he’s the most talented, but he’s got the most weapons,” Aasen said.
But Olson isn’t a lock. After being No. 1 in the Tennis Coaches Association rank ings for the first half of the season, he had a lull, which included a loss to Elk River sophomore Josh Gearou.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Aasen said. “He played a lot of matches against some very good players in a short period of time. He may have been a little beat up and tired.”
Olson rebounded and won the Section 5 title, beating Minneapolis South’s Jesse Sprinkel in the finals.
He challengers include Boyer’s younger brother Toby, an undefeated sophomore who earned the No. 2 seed; Sprinkel, who is seeded No. 3 and was ranked No. 1 through the final stages of the regular season; and No. 4 seed Zach Ekstein of Eagan, who brings a 22-1 record to the field. Gearou also is in the mix, as is Minnetonka junior Joel (formerly Joey) Richards and Burnsville junior Tom McCallie.
The Class 2A team competition has a much more orderly feel. No. 1-seeded Wayzata, the deepest team in the tournament, is favored over Elk River, the defending champion and the No. 2 seed.
In Class 1A, everything likely will come down to archrivals Blake and Breck. The 1A field isn’t seeded. But with Blake ranked first and Breck second in the coaches association rankings — and in opposite brackets — a finals match between the two is a near certainty.
“The players [on Blake and Breck] know each other on and off the court and many are friends, so it is always a great match,” Blake coach Ted Warner said.
Expect two-time singles champion Myles Tang of Breck to square off against Blake sophomore Charlie Adams in the singles final while the Blake pairing of Kai Skallerud and Taylor Parr looks tough to beat in the doubles field.