Fresh off a successful start to the season at the I-94 Challenge in Madison a week earlier, things didn't get any easier for the Raider boys' tennis team at the 32-team Milwaukee Coaches Classic this past weekend, but they were up to the challenge.
The Raiders posted a record of 4-1 at the two-day tournament, bouncing from a first-day loss to Middleton to win four straight matches against Monona Grove, Pewaukee, Franklin and Wauwatosa East.
"This was an incredible tournament to play in with 32 teams from the eastern part of the state," head coach John Knutson said. "The only two teams from the west even invited were Hudson and perennial powerhouse Eau Claire Memorial."
Both the Raiders and Old Abes went 4-1 at the tournament and will open Big Rivers Conference play against each other this Thursday, April 12, in Eau Claire.
Last week the Raiders opened the Coaches Classic with a 5-2 loss to Middleton. Hudson's lone points came from a straight set win by sophomore Jacob Grosz at No. 2 singles and a super tiebreak victory by senior captain Luke Johnson at No. 3 singles.
The Raiders reversed that 5-2 score in their second match Friday, sweeping the four singles matches and getting a win at No. 2 doubles against Monona Grove.
Captain Tyler Grosz won 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1 singles and younger brother Jacob won 6-1, 6-4 at No. 2 while Johnson cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 win at the No. 3 spot and junior Kade Nickerson won 6-1, 6-4 at No. 4.
Hudson struggled at doubles, dropping the No. 1 and No. 3 doubles matches, but the duo of Mitchell Drost and Isaac Hennemann pulled out a 7-5, 6-4 victory at No. 2.
Knutson said the Raider singles lineup of the Grosz brothers, Johnson and Nickerson has looked good this year but they've been struggling to find the right mix in doubles.
"If we can always sweep the four singles matches we can always win 4-3," Knutson said. "But I sure would like to find a couple doubles pairings where we can count on some victories there as well."
Hudson had a busy Saturday with three matches and started with a 6-1 victory over Pewaukee with wins at all four singles spots No. 2 and No. 3 doubles. The Raiders continued rolling with a 7-0 win over Franklin, 84 games and only yielding 16 for the entire match.
Saturday's final match saw a pair of 3-1 teams facing off as the Raiders went up against Wauwatosa East. Hudson took three of four singles matches and two of three in doubles to post a 5-2 victory.
Jacob Grosz improved to 9-0 on the season with a 6-1, 6-0 win at the No. 1 singles position while Jack Geurkink and Brett Covey earned a 6-3, 6-1 win, and Isaac Hennemann and Josh LeCuyer won 6-3, 6-2 in doubles.
Knutson said the Raiders impressed the tournament organizers enough to be invited back to play again next year, but there's still work to do this season.
"We're making some good progress," he said. "After graduating six of our top ten we have to find some guys who can step up and play with the big boys. We're filling some of those spots pretty well. For us to be 6-3 on the season, playing against many of the best teams in the state, I would say I'm pretty happy right now, as we look to start our Big Rivers Conference opener this coming week."
The Raiders have a busy week coming up with three matches in five days, starting with a home match against Roseville Tuesday, April 9, then the BRC opener at Eau Claire Memorial Thursday, April 11. They return home to host former Raider Ben Hilding and his New Prague team Friday, April 12, at 4 p.m.