It’s only fitting that Andover seniors Grant Johnson and Erik Jones were the first boys’ tennis players to reach the state tournament in program history.
The doubles pair lost to top-seeded Elk River-duo of Sam Gearou and Josh Chuba 6-4, 7-5 but qualified for state as the top two teams from each section move on to state.
The Huskies pair opened with a 6-4, 7-5 win against Hibbing’s Scott Perunovich and Taylor Persson before handing Duluth East’s Peder Norr and Michael Laiberte with a 6-0, 6-2 score in the semifinals to secure a place in the state tournament and the section finals.
Reaching state was a big achievement for the two since they reached the semifinals then finished fourth in the section as freshmen and sophomores.
Both have played on the varsity team since seventh graders and posted a combined record of 6-2 this spring. Grant compiled an 18-4 record in all competition and Jones posted a 16-6 record.
Given they’ve played singles and doubles quite often, Jones said he likes parts of each game, especially when it comes to Grant as a partner.
“Doubles is quite fun. We get to kill some balls,” he said looking at Grant because the pair tend to set each other up for smashes.
Jones reached the third round of the singles section tournament and Grant paired up with another player last spring.
The pair are among the program’s most decorated players and coach Mike Johnson said they are among the top of the career wins chart. Both are three-time All-Northwest Suburban Conference honorees and served as captains the last two seasons.
The two started playing tennis together in Andover as third graders at a tournament in Woodbury and will complete their prep careers on the state’s biggest stage — the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota.
“We’ve played a lot together,” Jones said.
Johnson added: “If a lob goes up we know who is going to cover. We’ve had good communication and know the strengths and weaknesses of each other and try to cover those good.”
Johnson, Andover’s coach, said both have big, powerful right-handed serves so determining who serves goes down to either the competition, weather or how the other feels.
Coach Johnson added the two had more than 20 unreturnable smashes and instead of aces they set each other up for easier putaways, as the level of competition increased during sections.
Coming into the season Jones said they wanted to work on moving around at the net. Grant worked on serve and volley and transitioning to get to the net more.
During the match the two, “keep the fire going with a high-five after almost ever point and remind each other what we need to do,” Jones said.
The section singles quarterfinals included St. Francis junior Blake McReavy who lost to Grand Rapids’ Austin Stefonich 6-1, 6-0. Forest Lake sophomore Toby Boyer won the singles title with a 7-6 (12-10), 6-2 score against Elk River’s Josh Gearou.
Andover lost to top-seed Elk River in the second round of the south sub-section after topping Cambridge-Isanti 6-1 in the opening round.
Anoka’s doubles team of sophomore Patrick Gallagher and junior Mark Schatza reached the quarterfinals as the No. 8 seed, losing to Mounds View’s Anderson/Wiegert which was the top seeded duo in the tourney, 7-5, 6-2. The Mustangs were upset by No. 5 Kleineschay/Calabria of Maple Grove who rolled the upset into the section title.
Gallagher/Schatza opened with a 6-2, 6-4 win against Coon Rapids’ Daniel Jaeck/Steve Mueggenberg and added a second win against Irondale’s Gilbert/Lyngdal 6-1, 6-4.
Blaine’s team of Conner Ingalls and Matt Seracki also reached the quarterfinals before losing to No. 2 seeds Hochberger/Adkins of Maple Grove 6-4, 6-0. Ingalls/Seracki opened with a 6-3, 6-1 win against Champlin Park’s Hilley/Lorentzen and followed with a 6-4, 6-2 win against Spring Lake Park’s Corey Buresh/Chris Capistrant.
Anoka eighth grader Isaac Johnson reached the championship quarterfinals in the Section 5AA singles tournament. Johnson, seeded eighth, won three of his first four sets by 6-0 scores with a 7-6 win against Champlin Park’s Mikayeel Mulla the only one to score points in the first or second rounds. Johnson beat Spring Lake Park’s Andrew Malark in the second round and Malark reached the second round after a 6-3, 6-4 win against Coon Rapids’ Nate Porter.
Johnson ran into top-seed Zach Adkins, Maple Grove, in the quarterfinals where he was shutout in straight sets 6-0, 6-0. Adkins lost in the championship match to No. 2 seed Burke Anderson of Centennial 6-1, 3-6, 6-0.
Fifth-seed Tyler Pratt of Blaine scored an opening round bye but lost in the second round to Mounds Views’ CJ Lloyd 6-1, 6-0.
Blaine teammate Austin Ditzig scored an opening-round victory over Totino-Grace’s Micah Rolfe 6-0, 6-4 before losing to No. 3 Peter Berno of Osseo 6-4, 6-0.
Sixth-seed Bobby Yang of Coon Rapids also picked up a first-round bye but dropped a 6-2, 7-5 decision against Maple Grove’s Jacob Endres in the second round.