In making his first trip to the Class 2A state individual tennis tournament at the Northwest Athletic Club in Bloomington, Brainerd Warriors junior Paul Tuchscherer will go up against some of the toughest competition he's faced all season.
Tuchscherer will be ready to face those challenges if his older brother Mark has anything to say about. Mark, a former Warrior player who made two trips to the state tournament himself, has been pounding tennis balls at his younger brother in helping Paul prepare for the rigors of the state tournament.
"Mark's been hitting balls with me and he's been really working me hard," Tuchscherer said. "He's keeping my physical conditioning up and he knows what the competition is like down there at state. If you're not mentally tough you won't succeed.
"You have to practice on your own and having someone like my brother to hit balls with is nice."
Tuchscherer will face Corey Eider of Duluth Denfeld in the opening match 8 a.m. Thursday. Even though he doesn't know much about his opponent, Tuchscherer knows that everyone at state will be good.
"There'll be some tough competition down at state," he said. "All the kids from the Twin Cities play year round and only play tennis. Up here, we usually play more than one sport. I play basketball so I don't pick up a racket for six months.
"I feel that I have a shot to do well at state. I'll have to be on top of my game and play to the best of my potential because if I don't, I'll be out in two seconds."
As Tuchscherer points out, playing consistently will be a necessity as well as getting his first serve in.
Just making it to the state tournament is a big accomplishment for Tuchscherer. He was diagnosed with mononucleosis at midseason and missed a few dual meets. He came back and helped lead the Warriors to the North Subsection 8, Class 2A championship and to a runner-up finish in Section 8.
"In the subsection, when we won three straight matches, physically it was tough on me," Tuchscherer said. "But I've been getting better and better. I felt good at sections and I didn't feel any problems from the mono. I feel like I'm in good shape and if I win some matches at state, I'll have a decent amount of time to rest."
Even though this is Tuchscherer's first trip to state, don't look for him to be wide-eyed and intimidated. He also knows that getting to state is special and to take advantage of the opportunity.
"You can never expect too much from yourself," said Tuchscherer. "It's not every day that you get to play in a tournament like this so you have to put it all on the line.
"I just need to take it one match at a time. I'll go down there with the mindset to win it all. You have to believe you can do it."
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