The Raider boys' tennis team celebrated a successful 2019 season with a large group of 115 players, parents, coaches and guests attending its postseason banquet at Kilkarney Hills Golf Course in River Falls Tuesday, June 18.
Varsity head coach John Knutson has always preached his "no cut" philosophy to accommodate all players who pay the high school sports fees and want to compete, and that was reflected in the 65 players who came out for the team this season, up from 40 in 2017 and 50 last year. Sixteen beginning players made up the JV-Development team, 29 played JV and 20 on varsity.
After losing six of the top ten players from the 2018 varsity team to graduation, the Raiders came together and posted a 4-1 record in Big Rivers Conference play and went 17-6 overall with nine players advancing to the WIAA sectional and three to state.
"I was a little more than concerned going into the season (after) losing so many seniors and having to rebuild the team for this year, but our guys stepped up," Knutson said.
For individual accolades, the Raiders had two BRC champions with Tyler Grosz winning No. 1 singles and Jacob Grosz taking the title at No. 2 singles. All ten of the varsity players placed either first, second or third in the conference and seven were acknowledged with all-conference honors, including Tyler and Jacob Grosz on the first team. Second Team honors went to Luke Johnson, Jack Geurkink, Bret Covey, Mitchell Drost and Isaac Hennemann.
Nine of the Raider's ten players advanced from sub-sectionals in Eau Claire to the sectionals in Wisconsin Rapids where Hudson took the runner-up plaque for the second year in a row.
To culminate play this spring, four Raiders advanced to the WIAA State Tournament in Madison where Tyler Grosz won two matches to reach the round of 16, Jacob Grosz advanced to the round of 32 and the doubles team of Geurkink and Johnson lost their first round match.
After acknowledging the Academic All-Conference Award Winners, the BRC All-Conference Award Winners, the Letter Winners, and the Sectional Participants at last week's banquet, Knutson awarded three players the major team awards for the year.
Sophomore captain Jacob Grosz won the award for the Highest Games, Sets, and Matches, Tyler Grosz won the Most Valuable Player award for the third year in a row, and Johnson earned the Hudson Raider Award, which Knutson gives to the player who embodies what it means to be a Hudson Raider.
"These three guys were not only exceptional on the court all year, but all three of these guys were great captains and leaders for our team all year as well," Knutson said. "I expect a lot out of my captains with coaching, helping at practice and at matches, cleaning buses and vans, and so much more and these guys always did what they needed to do for the benefit of the team."
Knutson noted that Jacob Grosz lost only one conference match and three total matches this season while Tyler Grosz went 27-4 while beating some of the best players in the state.
"And Luke Johnson, with his effort, attitude and demeanor, he's one of everyone's favorite players on the team," Knutson added. "All these guys are great players, but even better people. They were awesome for us all year."
Knutson said two Raiders will continue their tennis careers in college. Geurkink will be playing for Northwestern College in St. Paul and Tyler Grosz will be playing for coach Tom Gilman and the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds.