For half of the Mingus Union boys tennis team, the season is officially over, for the other three players, now comes the hard part.
The Marauders finished their season with a 5-4 win against Northland Prep. Due to the wind, the match was a little different than normal, but the wind was much stronger than normal.
"It's a very positive end [to the season]," said head coach Tim Kessel. "We played good doubles today; we got wins like we have all year. We got wins at the top and then at the bottom of the ladder, and that's encouraging, because what you have there is a top player and you have some freshman who are very competitive."
The teams agreed to play pro-8 rules in the singles matches, meaning that the first player to eight wins. If the score were tied at 8-8, then the boys would play a seven-point tiebreaker.
The wind, while making the matches difficult, also provided some laughs for everyone. A strong gust of wind would carry the tennis ball back to the side it was hit from, despite barely crossing the net and players' hats would regularly get blown off mid-set.
Mingus Union did what they had to do to win the match. They won the doubles 2-1 with wins from Talon Walz and Tanner Caron (9-7) and Logan Connella and Joseph Sandoval (8-4).
With the Marauders holding a 2-1 advantage over the Spartans, it was crucial for them to carry the momentum into singles play. Talon was first off the courts, dropping his opponent 8-0 and finishing the regular season undefeated. Shortly after him was Joseph, who won his match 8-2.
"It was great and I finished with a great 8-0 win and I'm looking forward to next year," Logan said. "I'm planning on playing a bunch of summer tournaments, working on my strokes and serves throughout the summer ... next year, hopefully ill come back five times as good and playing higher up on the bracket and seeds."
Joseph's doubles partner, Logan, clinched the match victory for Mingus with a 8-0 win on court No. 6. Talon's brother Turner Walz won his match in a tiebreaker set 7-1. Senior Gilbert Quidera and Tanner were the lone singles matches to drop their competitions, but both will get another chance when they participate in the double portion of the state tournament this weekend.
Talon, who established himself as the best singles player in northern Arizona after going undefeated and winning the Northern Arizona Championships, secured a No. 7 seed for the singles tournament. He will get a bye his first round and face either Buckeye or Veritas Prep in the second round. The second round of the tournament begins at 6 p.m. on April 19.
"My biggest thing is not double faulting," Talon said about his chances at state. "I have a problem with that and if I get a point going, I usually have a good chance of winning it, at least two or three rounds in state. I'm going to be playing some pretty tough people."
Joining Talon at state will be Gilbert and Tanner, who will be competing in the doubles bracket. Unfortunately, they will not get a bye the first round and will face-off against the team from Fountain Hills High School. Matches begin at 12:30 p.m. for the first round of doubles play. Both doubles and singles will be held at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale.
This was the perfect way to end the regular season for Kessel, who has been saying all season that the talent is there, the experience just needs to catch up.
Kessel was put into an unenviable situation this season; he only had three upper classmen that had experience. To fill his roster, he was forced to fill his No. 4 through No. 6 courts with freshmen that were playing the game for the first time.
"They got huge varsity experience, we got huge wins all the way through [the season] from our five and six players," Kessel said. "I see nothing but good things for this team."
What followed was a seven-match losing streak with few bright spots along the way, until April 11; when the boys recorded their first team win of the season against Prescott.
The Marauders end the season with a 2-8 record, but will be returning five of their six players.
"You look at a season with two wins and you think disappointment, and its not," Kessel said. "What it is, is a season of hope, the way I look at it. It's a season where three freshmen were thrown into a varsity lineup, when we didn't think it would be that way."
The freshmen really stood out to Kessel. All season he was able to watch their progress and see them begin to understand the game. Logan Connella, the No. 6 court player, finished his season on a four-match, non-tournament win streak and finished second in the doubles division of his flight with partner Joseph Sandoval at the Northern Arizona Championships.
"It feels great," Logan said. "I love to know that I'm picking it up, it's coming to me naturally, and I'm looking forward to seeing how well I can progress in the future."
To go along with the doubles finish for Joseph, he also won his singles flight, and while not finishing the season with a four-match streak; he was still able to put together solid wins during the season.
Turner was in a tough spot during his first season. Playing at the No. 4 court, he faced many players that were older and had more experience then him. He ended the season with a win, and as Kessel put it, "became a tennis player right in front of our eyes" at the Northern Arizona Championships, where he won his flight.
"It almost sounded contrived when I kept saying we're staying positive, we're taking what we can from losses and we're trying to build on the individual wins, and the truth is, that's exactly what it is. We stayed positive, the boys didn't let down, they practiced hard, they played hard, they played as a team and it showed up at the end. It showed at a great Northern Arizona Championships and it showed in two out of three wins to end the season. It's exactly right, it confirms and reaffirms why hard work is important, even when things look bleak," Kessel said.