Originally Posted by Waukesha Freeman…
WAUKESHA, Wis. –
KOHLER — The WIAA moved its Division 2 state boys team tennis tournament off the beaten path to Sports Core in 2021.
And Catholic Memorial came into the season under the radar and went the distance to win it. The Crusaders completed their stealth mission with a 4-3 triumph over Brookfield Academy in the championship match Saturday, hours after shutting out Aquinas 7-0 in their semifinal. They finished 18-4.
The state team title is CMH’s first in the sport, coming only two years after the program made its only other state appearance at the event’s traditional venue — Nielsen Stadium in Madison.
CMH co-coach Jeff Mrochinski was asked if he saw the championship coming.
“No,” Mrochinski said. “I thought this was a rebuilding season with only one player returning from our state-qualifying team from 2019. I was hoping to take second or third at sectionals.
“We had a stretch where we played 18 matches in 19 days since the season was shortened this year. It was brutal. On the 19th day, we lost had our worst defeat of the season to University School of Milwaukee 7-0. It was the third day of exam week and we were exhausted.
“(Co-coach) Chris Benyousky and I decided to give the guys four days off and told them not to touch a tennis racquet for 96 hours. We came back and defeated a tough Kettle Moraine squad 6-1 and really went on an upward trajectory for the rest of the season.”
Mrochinski characterized CMH’s state champions generally as an easygoing group.
“Chris and I weren’t always sure that the intensity level was there from some guys to make a run at team state,” Mrochinski said. “But Chris and I had a lot of fun with these guys. We kept practices loose, but planned carefully to make full use of our time.
“Practices were only 90 minutes long, but we made very efficient use of time to keep the guys focused. Our players did a great job accepting the roles they were asked to play for the team and really supported each other through a rough schedule. We were also blessed to have a very supportive group of parents that trusted our coaching staff to make the best decisions for their children.”
The state tourney had its share of memorable moments.
“First of all, the seed meeting took an unprecedented 75 minutes (to seed four teams) including two coin flips,” Mrochinski said. “We were lucky to have the one seed, but since none of the teams played each other during the season, there was no real feel for who was the best team going into team state.
“We almost had to play Brookfield Academy in the first round, which would have been a shame because as things played out, we were the two strongest teams. BA has an incredibly talented lineup and an excellent coach in Michael Rajchel. BA won their sectional by knocking out USM, which we had lost to convincingly a few weeks earlier.”
The Crusaders responded to the challenge of the top billing.
“Every one of our 10 guys peaked at team state and absolutely played their best tennis,” Mrochinski said. “We have a formula we use to make that happen, but it was neat to see all 10 guys perform at their best at team state.”
The title wasn’t secured without some intense drama.
“We actually had two very good chances to clinch the title that got away from us,” Mrochinski said. “After winning convincingly at No. 2 doubles and No. 3 singles, our No. 1 doubles lost 9-11 in the third set to the BA doubles team that won individual state a week earlier, and our No. 3 doubles lost an equally close match at 8-10 in the third set.
“The team championship came down to the No. 2 singles match, where CMH freshman Hayden Latus battled BA senior Tayte Matthews. Tayte was a individual state doubles champion in 2017 and was seeded at state in singles, so we knew Hayden had a tough challenge ahead. Tayte had some ankle going into the match, but we had to keep Hayden focused on his side of the court. Luckily Hayden had some great teammates and alums to hit with in practice, so he was able to overcome a 2-5 deficit in the second set by winning five straight games and clinching CMH’s first boys team state title in school history.”
CMH’s other victors in the title round were junior Ethan Szada, who bested freshman Vibhu Guda at third singles, 6-2, 6-3; junior Matthew Ramthun, who defeated sophomore Michael Boucher at fourth singles, 6-4, 6-2; and senior Ian Horder and sophomore Trent Adamson, who downed senior Niels Armbruster and sophomore Charlie Hieb at second doubles, 61, 6-2.
Brookfield Academy’s winners were freshman Adrian Yin, who prevailed over senior Jack McCaffery at first singles, 6-0, 6-0; senior Drew Buckholdt and junior Pranav Gogineni, who defeated senior Chase Korb and freshman Nate Carson at first doubles, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 11-9; and freshmen Josh Van Bogart and Peyton Zeiler, who beat junior George Beres and freshman Finn Fox at third doubles, CM 4-6, 6-4, 10-8.
The Crusaders positioned themselves for their title conquest with a dominant semifinal triumph over Aquinas, which wound up 7-3.
The CMH singles winners were McCaffery over Joseph O’Flaherty, 6-2, 6-0; Latus over Lars Gundersen, 6-0, 6-1; Szada over Jarryd Heldrich, 6-1, 6-1; and Ramthun over Shane Willenbring, 6-1, 6-1.
Korb and Carson downed Garrett Butler and Seth Capelli at first doubles, 7-5, 76 (6); Horder and Adamson topped Nathan Koch and Ethan Schamberger, 6-3, 6-2; and Beres and Fox defeated Samuel Dickinson and Paulie Reuteman at third doubles, 63, 7-5.
Mrochinski commented on the seniors who closed out their CMH careers in championship fashion.
“Ian Horder played No. 2 doubles for us this season and won both his matches at team state,” Mrochinski said. “Ian came into the season looking to play singles, but graciously accepted his role and made the most of it with a thrilling victory over Edgewood in the sectional championship with his partner, Trent Adamson. Chase Korb may be the most physically gifted tennis player I have ever coached. Tennis is Chase’s third sport as he also played varsity volleyball and was a state-caliber swimmer for the Waukesha South/CMH swim team. Chase showed great leadership in partnering at No. 1 doubles with talented freshman Nate Carson. Chase relished battling against some of the best doubles teams in the state and provided our team with a courage to compete.
“Jack McCaffery was the only returning varsity starter on this year’s squad, moving up from No. 4 singles in 2019 to No. 1 in 2021. Jack worked extremely hard in the offseason the last two years to prepare to lead our program and he did a great job. Jack was awarded first-team All-Classic 8 Conference singles honors and made it to the sweet 16 at individual state. Jack’s energy was critical both in practices and matches and he made his teammates better with his leadership.”
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