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Strong returns for Raider tennis

Senior Isaac Young, left, and junior Tyler Grosz will serves as co-captain of the Raider boys tennis team that has high aspirations for the 2018 season. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
Hudson head tennis coach John Knutson gives instructions to a first-year player at the Raider boys' tennis team's practice Thursday, March 29, at the high school courts. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

Junior co-captain Tyler Grosz wasn't surprised when 51 of his fellow students turned out for the first day of tryouts for the Raider boys tennis team Monday, March 26.

"I think our recent success has brought a lot more kids out for tennis," he said. "Winning will cure a lot of things."

If that trend continues, Hudson may have to build a lot more tennis courts at the high school.

The Raiders are coming off a successful 2017 campaign that sent three of their top ten players to the WIAA State Individual Tournament, including Grosz and senior Isaac Young, who will share team captain duties for Hudson this season.

Head coach John Knutson said he couldn't be more excited about coaching this year's Raider team.

"Collectively these guys have been playing three to four times a week since the end of last season, both outside and at the local indoor tennis club," he said. "They also banded together and finished an eight-week strength and conditioning program prior to the season start. These guys are really excited for the year to get started and their goal all along has been to go to state as a team . Hudson has consistently sent individuals to state, but has never sent a boys or girls team to state to compete for the team state championship. Maybe this is the year?"

Grosz and Young like what their coach is saying.

"Team state; that's our goal. That will be the first time ever for Hudson," Grosz said.

"Team state would be amazing," Young added.

Grosz advanced to individual state as Hudson's No. 1 singles player last year and will fill that role again this season. Two of his three Big Rivers Conference losses a year ago came against players from Eau Claire North and River Falls that have graduated. The lone returner is Mark Pepperl of Eau Claire Memorial, who Grosz recently defeated in a USTA tournament match.

"I'm confident he can beat him in the dual match this season and I don't see anyone else who can touch him," Knutson said. "I believe Grosz will end up being one of the best singles players ever to play for the Hudson Raiders."

Young, who won a match at state alongside the team's only graduated senior, Toby Haynor, will team up with classmate Blake Royer to compete for the No. 1 doubles spot with senior Luke Holmberg and freshman Jacob Grosz, the younger brother of Tyler.

Knutson feels it should be a good battle for the No. 1 doubles team spot.

"Now that our varsity and JV teams have been selected we have to work on slotting the players into the four singles positions and three doubles teams for the recordable matches," the coach said. "Our doubles teams will be dominant again this year and I hope we can get our team to state, but minimally expect that we can get the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams to state this year, along with Grosz at No. 1 singles."

Weather permitting, the Raiders are scheduled to open the season Saturday, April 7, at the Hastings Quad. They are scheduled to host South St. Paul Monday, April 9 at 4 p.m. at the high school courts before opening BRC play Thursday, April 12, at Menomonie.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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