As freshmen Dan Klucas and Alex Anderson got their “butts handed to them” in the Section 7-1A individual tournament.
Three years later the Aitkin Gobblers duo advanced through the doubles portion of the Section 7-1A tournament unscathed to become the second Aitkin doubles team to advance to the state tournament.
“It was pretty exciting to advance and to think when I was growing up and being in the program when the other team went to state at how good we thought they were at the time,” said Anderson. “To think now we made it to state and how much our level of tennis has increased since we started playing.
“Me and Dan played doubles in the section tournament against two really big kids and one thing my mom said was, ‘You guys got your butts handed to you.’ Now we’re the kids people are looking up to.”
Everyone in Section 7-1A was looking up at Anderson-Klucas, who had played singles during the regular season and hadn’t played together since their freshmen year, except in one dual match this season.
Klucas-Anderson downed Virginia’s Blair Seltz-March Krebach 6-3, 6-1 in the doubles championship to advance to the first state tournament for both of them.
“I didn’t think about too much other than we’re going to state,” said Klucas. “I’m just going to go into that tournament to have fun and hopefully get some good results. I’m not too worried about the outcome. I’m more focused on how we’re playing.
“We’ve matured as players and for sections we went out there and had a good time. It was fun.”
In four section matches, the pair lost just 11 points. They eliminated Jeremy Amys-Guiga Audito of Hermantown 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals May 23.
Anderson-Klucas swept Mora’s Patrick Hinks-Zeke Enyant 6-0, 6-0 in the opening round and then dispatched Miles Everson-Nick Robillard of Eveleth-Gilbert 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals May 22.
The team’s level of dominance surprised everyone, including Aitkin head coach Joe Walz.
“I expected more singles play from two singles players, which means more time at the baseline and less aggressive coming into the net,” Walz said. “In singles, you get more overheads and not poaching put a ways. They both hit their overheads well, but what really surprised me was how well they did at the net and how quick they were to the ball and cutting things off and making their opponents have to thread the needle. There were a lot of unforced errors because they were so aggressive to the net.”
Aitkin’s only other representative at the state boys tennis tournament was the team of Adam Cook and Dan Burke in 2008.
Klucas’ older sister, Kelsey, advanced to state twice as a singles player.
The key to the championship and the upcoming state tournament, said Anderson, is playing like a doubles team instead of two singles players.
“Were just really in a zone,” he said. “We had good position on the court. In singles, I come to the net a lot, which helped in the doubles game. It was hard to remember I had somebody else covering the court with me and on occasion we would both end up in the middle of the court and leave the outsides wide open.
“But playing like a doubles team, most of the people we played against hadn’t played doubles before. When we came to the net that opened a lot more of the court for us to hit to.”
Other notable performances:
Baseball: Derek Sonenstahl, Pine River-Backus, finished 2-3 with three RBIs against Pequot Lakes.
Golf: Nick Forsberg, Staples-Motley, shot 74 for co-medalist honors in the Mid-Minn Conference championship.
Alex Goerges, Pequot Lakes, shot 74 for co-medalist honors in the Mid-Minn Conference championship.
Tennis: Guthrie Coughlin and Austin Hirshey, Staples-Motley, won the Section 8-1A doubles title.
Shane Seuss and Josh Solway, Staples-Motley, advanced to state by finishing second in the Section 8-1A doubles tournament.
Track and field: Luke Pennington, Little Falls, won the 110- and 300-meter hurdles at the Princeton Invite.
Brian Huber, Staples-Motley, won the 100 and 200 dashes and long jump in the Subsection 3, Section 6-1A meet.