Typically, the first day of a South Dakota state tennis tournament is all about holding serve, so to speak. Focusing on the job at hand and avoiding an unexpected first-round upset and the loss of the critical points associated with a first-round victory.
Defending champion Sioux Falls Lincoln and ESD champion Mitchell did just that in Thursday’s opening day of the State Boys Tennis Tournament in Rapid City, sharing the team lead with 300 points each by advancing six singles players and three doubles teams into today's third-round play.
Rapid City Stevens stands third (264), followed by Sioux Falls Roosevelt (252), Sioux Falls O’Gorman (238) and Brandon Valley (234). St. Thomas More finished the first day of competition in 11th place (127), while Rapid City Christian sits 17th (78) and Rapid City Central 19th (14).
Play began under brilliant sunshine that lasted through the morning hours before a mid-afternoon thunderstorm sent teams scurrying off the Sioux Park and Parkview courts and moving indoors at The Tennis Center of the Black Hills and Arrowhead Country Club for completion of the day’s first and second round doubles matches.
Lincoln’s perfect day was led by Sam Dobbs, top-seeded in Flight No. 1 singles, as the Patriot junior improved to 24-0 on the season cruising to a 6-1, 6-0 win over Watertown’s Dylan Hillberg. Dobbs completed his first day of play pairing with Gage Gohl to defeat the St. Thomas More duo of Nick Lust/Cullen Hill in No. 1 doubles, a match begun at Sioux Park and completed indoors at The Tennis Center of the Black Hills.
“It’s all about getting started on the first day. Getting in a routine and winning the first matches that I know I should win,” said Dobbs, a two-time state champion at No. 2 singles while playing second fiddle to older brother Kaleb, a three- time state champion. “It’s was a little hard to tell today because of switching from outside to inside right in the middle of the match. It is totally different playing inside and these courts are a lot different than the ones in Sioux Falls. I’m just hoping we are outside tomorrow and the day after that because I definitely like playing outside much better.”
“We did avoid an early upset. The way the draws are setup you play weaker competition in the early round with the tougher competition to follow,” Lincoln coach Tom Krueger said. “And if you don’t make it through the first day unscathed, you lose a lot of points that theoretically you should be winning. (Friday) doubles will be extremely important for us. We’ve worked hard at improving our doubles skills and tomorrow we will find out whether we have prepared well enough and are able to take our doubles to the next level.”
On a day when surprises were few and far between, the Mitchell Kernels perhaps filled the bill as the ESD champs joined Lincoln in completing a perfect day on the courts.
“We’ve had success before and know what the state tournament is all about, so while I can’t say we were expecting to do so well knowing how competitive the tournament is this year, but we have some good players and they played well today,” Mitchell coach Pat Moller said. “However, Thursday is about surviving and Friday is the day when the men are separated from the boys and you see where teams stand.”
Rapid City Stevens, Sioux Falls O’Gorman and Sioux Falls Roosevelt advanced in eight of the nine brackets with each team sending five of six singles players into the third round and two of three doubles teams.
Only a loss at No. 2 singles dented an otherwise solid opening day for the Rapid City Stevens. Top-seeds Ben Anderson (No. 3 singles) and Dawson Segrist (5 singles) led the charge, taking care of business with wins in singles outdoor action and then pairing up for an indoor 6-0, 6-0 whitewash of a Huron duo in No. 2 doubles play.
“It’s all about staying in the game and keeping your head cool since you sure don’t want to go out right away,” Anderson said. “As for doubles, I’m used to playing outdoors all year, so moving indoors was a little tricky, but Dawson and I have great chemistry on the court, play well together, and have fun doing it. He’s going to put shots away and I am, too, and we pick each other up, and it works out very well.”
Others advancing in championship round play for the Raiders were Jamison Pfingston in No. 1 singles, Michael Tang (3rd-seed in No. 4 singles) and Ty Studer (3rd-seed in No. 6 singles).
Among other area teams, only St. Thomas More’s Will Raymond remains alive in championship play as the Cavalier senior (9th seeded) knocked of No. 8 seed Lucas Goetz of Aberdeen Roncalli in second round play.
The win, the third meeting of the year between the two, followed a similar script to previous meetings as Raymond dropped the first set 2-6, and then bounced back in a squeaker 7-6, 10-7.
“He beat me the first time we played this year, and then I came back from a set down to beat him the second time. Beating him once, I knew that I could do it again,” Raymond said. “It was really competitive all the way through, and I just felt like I started playing better.”
The competition level ratchets up a couple notches today with third-round championship round singles play and third-round and semifinal championship doubles action at Sioux Park, while Parkview will host consolation singles action. Action at both locations is scheduled to start at 8 a.m.