After only four days of practice, three of which comprised tryouts for team selections, the Raider boys' tennis team got a running start to the season at the I-94 Challenge in Madison last Friday and Saturday, March 29-30.
Because of the Raiders' terrific season a year ago, where all 10 varsity players moved on from subsectional to sectional play, the Raiders were invited to two elite invitational tournaments, the first of which was the I-94 Challenge. Four teams from West Central Wisconsin were invited-Hudson, Eau Claire Memorial, Madison Memorial and Madison West-to face four of the best teams from the Milwaukee area-Marquette, Nicolet, Homestead and Brookfield Central.
In their first match at the Nielsen Tennis Center, home to the University of Wisconsin's men's and women's tennis teams, the Raiders came up just short to Homestead in a 4-3 loss before flipping that score against Brookfield Central to go 1-1 on the day.
The early-morning match Saturday was against perennial state powerhouse Nicolet and Hudson came away with a 6-1 victory before losing to defending state champion Marquette 5-2 in the tourney's final match.
Raider head coach John Knutson said just being invited to tournaments that feature the best teams in the state is an honor.
"In talking to parents who have been to state for tennis in the past, and understand who these teams are, we all agreed-if it doesn't scare you, you just don't know enough about tennis in Wisconsin," Knutson said. "It was really an impressive way to start the season for our Raiders. We have to play these better teams from Madison and Milwaukee if we ever hope to have a state champion here in Hudson."
Two shining spots for the Raiders were at the top with senior captain, Tyler Grosz, at No. 1 singles, along with his younger brother, sophomore Jacob Grosz, both going 4-0 over the two days.
"These guys exemplify the axiom that 'you get out of it what you put into it'" Knutson said. "Ty and Jacob both work year round on fitness and tennis with lessons, and numerous USTA tournament opportunities outside the high school season. As good as they both were last year, they have both made tremendous gains in their play and abilities and it showed this weekend."
Other bright spots for Hudson came from Kade Nickerson, who won three of his four matches at No. 4 singles, and Luke Johnson, who went 2-2 playing in one doubles and three singles matches at the No. 3 position.
"Overall I thought we did better than expected against this competition, but we have a long way to go to get where we want to be," Knutson said.
Next up for the Raiders is the second of back-to-back weekend Invitationals-The Coaches Classic Tournament hosted by Brookfield Central involving 32 different teams. The Raiders will host Roseville in a dual match Tuesday, April 9, before opening Big Rivers Conference play Thursday, April 11, at Eau Claire Memorial.