By Matthew Davis
A year ago, Columbia Heights became the Cinderella story of state boys tennis, as the Hylanders made their first-ever state appearance. Fridley lost to the Hylanders in the Class A Section 5 final, but many of the Tigers players got another shot with senior seasons ahead.
The No. 1 seed Tigers (10-5) made the most of their chance May 18 when they hoisted the Section 5 trophy after beating No. 2 seed St. Anthony Village 5-2 at home. It punched the Tigers’ ticket to the Class A state team tournament June 6-9.
“We just kept fighting and had the determination to [win],” Tigers senior Jacob Roubal said.
Roubal said junior Nic Fite’s win at second singles provided the team some momentum after a long individual match. Fite won the tie-breaker to grab points for the Tigers.
Fridley also ousted the No. 4 seed Hylanders 6-1 May 16 at home after having a bye for the quarterfinals. Columbia Heights reached the semifinals with a 5-2 win over Minneapolis Edison May 12.
In addition to the team success, Fridley will have representation in the state singles and doubles tournaments.
Roubal and Fite won the Section 5 doubles title May 24 in a 6-2, 6-7, 6-2 victory over Tigers senior teammates Niles Salter and Luke Cuehlo. Salter and Cuehlo also advanced to state by making the section final at the Spring Lake Park Public Indoor Tennis Center.
“That was really a fun experience being able to play your own teammates in a section finals match to go to state, especially knowing that both teams would be going to state,” Fite said.
He said it didn’t take away from the competitiveness though, particularly with state seeding at stake.
Ben Stevenson similarly made state in singles for the Tigers by making the championship match. The No. 3-seeded junior beat No. 2 seed Nick Kroening of St. Anthony Village 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals May 24. Stevenson came up short in the final against No. 1 seed Logan Couillard of Minneapolis Edison 6-1, 6-0.
“He has always been a very consistent and solid player,” Roubal said of Stevenson.
Stevenson opened the tournament with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Minneapolis Edison’s Brandon Arenson May 22.
Salter and Cuehlo reached the doubles final after beating Elyazid Chiboub and Peter Heryla 6-2, 6-3 May 24. The Tigers tandem also won their opening round match 6-2, 6-1 over DeLaSalle’s Joe Sachs and Joseph Brezonik May 22 at Coon Rapids.
Fite and Roubal cruised in their first match as well in a 6-1, 6-0 win May 22 over a doubles team from Minneapolis Patrick Henry. Fite and Roubal had a more challenging go in the semifinals with a 6-2, 6-7, 6-2 win over Matt Steiner and Ben Steiner of DeLaSalle May 24.
Fridley will open the Class A state team tournament at noon June 6 against Rochester Lourdes (13-2) at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis. The Eagles took third at state last season and have looked tough again with nine 7-0 match wins this year.
Fite said the pressure is off the Tigers since they consider themselves underdogs, but they believe they can make a run at state.
“I’m really excited to get out there and play,” Fite said.
The state singles and doubles brackets had not been released by press deadlines.