After competing right down to the final point for the Middle Border Conference dual championship, the New Richmond boys tennis team had high hopes for the 2013 MBC team tournament.
The team tournament didn't play out as well as the Tigers had hoped. They finished third in the team competition, behind Eau Claire Regis and Altoona.
Jack Hop was the only Tiger to win a conference tournament championship. Hop won the three singles title, the second straight year he's earned a conference championship.
The Tigers produced three second place finishes. Nick Bradish took second at one singles, Dustin Reed was second at two singles and the three doubles team of Connor Earley and Vitaliy Gutsal also placed third.
Hop earns his second straight championship at three singles after going into the tournament as the second seed. He lost one game in his first two matches before getting a rematch against Victor Bourget of Eau Claire Regis in the finals. It was no contest, with Hop winning the title 6-0, 6-3.
"Jack was on a mission and he played like it. He told me after the finals that he wanted to avenge his loss in the dual to this player," said Tiger coach Mike Montello.
Bradish looked like he was on his way to a championship after playing sharply in wins over Durand and Amery opponents in the opening rounds. In the finals Bradish hit the wall. He won the opening set 6-2, but dropped the second set 6-3. He lost the super tie-break 10-5 to Hunter Cameron of Regis.
Reed was the second seed at two singles. He opened by sweeping Osceola, before winning a tough battle with Amery 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals. Reed gave Regis' Scott Strand good competition in the finals, leading 4-3 in the second set before finishing with a 6-2, 6-4 loss.
"This was a great effort by a young man who gives it his all every time he steps on the court," Montello said of Reed.
Earley and Gutsal were also a second seed. They swept Durand in the opening round, but had a tough battle with Altoona in the semifinals, prevailing 7-5, 6-3. They gave the top-seeded team from Regis all it could handle in the finals, losing 7-6 (9-7) 3-6, 7-10.
"Earley's aggressive, strong net play and Gutsal's solid returns helped us get to the finals," Montello said.
The two doubles team of Jake Lamirande and Adrian Harvieux finished in third place. Their only loss came in the semifinals by a 6-4, 6-4 score to the eventual champions from Regis.
There have been few years when any team in the area has been able to compete on even footing with Eau Claire Memorial. The Old Abes have a lineup of year-round tennis players, while teams like the Tigers consist mostly of multi-sport athletes who play most of their tennis during the spring season.
So when the Tigers and Old Abes met last Tuesday, there was little doubt it would result in a 7-0 sweep for the Old Abes. That doesn't mean the Tigers went through the motions.
"Overall (it was) one of the best results against Memorial in my memory," said Montello.
Bradish and Hop were able to take their opponents to three sets in the one and three singles matches.
The comment Montello had about Casey Turnipseed's loss at four singles summed up the Tigers' approach to facing Memorial.
"It was a valiant effort against a better player," he said.
The Tigers got a dose of strong Division 1 competition last Thursday when they hosted River Falls and Hudson in a triangular meet at the Tiger courts.
The Tigers split their matches in the tournament. They scored a 4-3 win over River Falls, but were toppled by Hudson 6-1.
Hudson came into the match armed with a talented team that had fared well in the Big Rivers Conference tournament. The Tigers' only win was at three singles, where Hop beat an opponent who had finished second in the BRC tournament.
After a recent tough stretch, the Tigers showed some "bounce back" ability against River Falls. Bradish, Reed and Hop scored wins in the singles lineup and Harvieux and LaMirande earned a win at two doubles.