With the sun shining on dry courts and warm bodies, the last couple weeks of tennis have finally become a little more enjoyable for the Magic boys team.
“This is why we play,” said Ethan Pauly, on a beautiful sunny Tuesday afternoon at the courts.
“We don’t play to play in the snow. We play to play in the sun.”
Despite a couple of losses this past week, the Magic have been playing good tennis in all conditions recently.
After starting the season with a losing skid, the Magic bounced back to get a couple of big non-conference wins at a St. Cloud tournament earlier this season.
This last weekend they headed to Foley for another tournament. They came away with a 1-1 split, falling to Foley, who is ranked No. 8 in Class A, before sweeping St. John’s Prep 7-0.
Against Foley, the Magic got wins from the No. 1 doubles team of Pauly and fellow captain Jack Fair, and from the No. 2 doubles team of Paul Fair and Aaron Stone.
Both of those doubles teams have been cornerstones for the Magic early this season.
“One and two doubles have played very well,” said Coach Jeff Bordwell. “Those four playing one and two doubles are pretty intimidating. Pretty big kids.”
The rest of the Magic weren’t intimidated by state-ranked Foley.
The third doubles team, Trevor Bautch and Chase Olson, lost by a close margin in the third set. Top singles player, Erik Hammill, the team’s third captain, also pushed his opponent. Hammill fell 6-2, 7-5.
Despite the loss, the Magic took away a lot of positives from the way they competed against one of the top opponents they’ve faced.
“I think Foley kind of invited us to get a confidence boost,” said Pauly. “I think they got more than they were expecting.”
In their next match, Monticello picked up all 7 wins against St. John’s Prep.
Hammill, No. 3 singles player Michael McConnon and Fair and Pauly each won 6-0, 6-0 as the team continued their strong play.
“We had a slow start, because of the weather,” said Fair. “We were definitely out of shape and out of practice. But we’re starting to get the hang of it, getting a lot more wins and we’re improving each day.”
Unfortunately for the Magic, the one place that improvement hasn’t transferred to is conference play.
Monticello played the two Mississippi 8 favorites, Buffalo and St. Michael-Albertville early in the season, and lost both matches to each of them.
After an additional loss to Big Lake, the Magic were 1-5 in conference and in need of a big win versus Rogers Tuesday night if they were to compete for the third place slot they had their eyes on.
Despite strong doubles play, the Magic came up just short, falling 4-3 to the Royals.
Fair and Pauly won 6-3, 6-0 while Stone and Fair won 6-0, 6-5. Levi Biasco picked up the lone Magic win at singles, as the No. 4 player went 6-4, 7-5 to improve on what has already been a very good season.
“He’s way above .500,” said Bordwell. “He’s playing well.”
McConnon and the third doubles team (Cole Guimont and Olson) both fell in third sets as the Magic came up just short.
One area that Monticello isn’t short in this year is number of kids participating.
The Magic have 46 kids out for tennis at the high school, quite a few more than they have the last couple of years.
Bordwell attributes some of that to his top singles player, who manages to work at his tennis game year round, while still making it look fun.
“Erik has got some kids out that probably wouldn’t play tennis,” said Bordwell. “But they see that he’s having so much fun at it.”
On the court, Hammill is working on adjusting to the top singles spot, after playing No. 2 singles in his first season on varsity last year.
“It’s a tough transition,” admitted Hammill. “But I think playing year round really helped. It’s making a huge difference right now.”
The Magic hope that finally getting consistent work in on the courts will pay off today, as they look to avenge an early season loss.
Monticello takes on Big Lake, a team that clipped them earlier this year as the Magic were still trying to work out their swings, and a correct lineup.
“Some individuals have got it circled,” said Bordwell. “For a program that started out a few years ago, they’re vastly improved. But with the lineup we have now, we feel pretty comfortable, that at least it’s going to be a really good match.”
The Magic travel to Big Lake to take on the Hornets, with the match beginning at 4:15 p.m.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at firstname.lastname@example.org