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New Richmond tennis team heads south to find dry courts

Getting to play the annual Eau Claire Memorial boys tennis tournament this weekend was so important to the coaches involved that they moved the tournament to Verona, a Madison suburb, to make sure the tournament could be played.

The New Richmond boys were able to play two matches Friday afternoon and another on Saturday before rain swept through the Madison area and put an end to the tournament.

Because the Tigers have not been able to practice outdoors yet this season, playing in this tournament was crucial. Once the area courts dry out, there will be a hectic schedule awaiting the players for the rest of the spring.

Tiger coach Mike Montello had to rebuild much of the team's lineup last season, but most of those players have returned. That gives the Tigers the ability to put someone with varsity experience on the courts at every flight.

The Tigers are led by junior Nick Bradish, who qualified for state in Division 1 singles last spring. Filling in the rest of the varsity singles roster for the tournament were Dustin Reed, Casey Turnipseed, Connor Earley and Mitch Giannini.

The season starts with Isaiah Hobbs and Jack Hop teamed as the Tigers' top doubles team. Jordy Kvam and Adrian Harvieux played in the second flight of doubles. Vitaliy Gutsal and Jake LaMirande played three doubles in the tournament. LaMirande is the only new addition to the lineup.

"He plays aggressive and you can often forget he is a first-year player when you see him play," Montello said.

The Tigers arrived at Verona at 3:30 p.m. Friday and played DePere in their opening match, losing 8-1. Bradish scored the Tigers' only win in a third set tie-breaker after dropping the opening set.

"Nick played very well against a quality opponent," Montello said.

One of the players who has drastically altered his game since last season is Reed. Now in his second season of tennis, he lost a three-set battle in the opening match before coming back with a 6-4, 6-1 win against the Tigers' second opponent on Friday, La Crosse Central.

"He has made great progress for a kid in his second year of tennis," Montello said. "He looked amazingly sharp for his first time out. His serving, forehand and aggressiveness will keep him competitive in many matches."

The Tigers and La Crosse Central split the eight matches that were completed on Friday before the tournament was closed down late that night. Montello said he was pleased with the willingness of the Tigers to play in chilly circumstances.

"It was not exactly tennis weather, but none of the kids complained," he said.

On Saturday the teams had to wait for showers to move through in the morning before taking the courts at 11 a.m. The Tigers faced a powerful team from Verona, losing all eight matches that were played.

The Tigers were scheduled to face Eau Claire Memorial next, but rain took care of those plans.

Montello said the Tigers were much more competitive in this tournament than a year ago. He said considering the lack of outdoor practice time, he's pleased with where the team's progress is at.

The Tigers are scheduled to head south again this Saturday in search of dryer courts. They are scheduled to play in a tournament at La Crosse Central, beginning at 10 a.m.