Boys tennis: Century state bound again
NORTHFIELD — Rochester Century has made it to the state Class AA state boys tennis tournament for the second straight year.
Tough to single out a specific hero on the Rochester Century boys tennis team.
Which is precisely why the Panthers are so good and in such a sweet spot — bound for the state Class AA state tournament for the second consecutive year. They're as balanced, deep and together as any team in the state.
No. 2-ranked and unbeaten (17-0) Century nailed down that state trip by finishing as champion Tuesday in the Section One, Class AA tournament at Northfield High School.
Century routed Lakeville North 6-1 in the semifinals, then handled No. 7-ranked Lakeville South 5-2 in the championship.
Mayo was bounced in the semifinals by South, 4-3.
"There are no egos on this (Century) team," said Panthers coach Nick Crossley. "Sahil is the epitome of that."
Sahil is Sahil Chhugani, one of two seniors in Century's varsity lineup and its best player.
He epitomized the "no-ego" thing by completely embracing where he was placed in Tuesday's lineup. Instead of showing up at his usual No. 1-singles spot, Crossley had him at No. 1 doubles with junior Gabe Hollman.
No problem, said Chhugani, a fifth-year varsity player and ranked 10th in the state in singles. He figured — as did Crossley — that it would help the team score wins in both the semifinals and finals.
Chhugani certainly did his part. He and Hollman worked for a pair of wins Tuesday, both in straight sets.
Meanwhile, Century freshman Varun Iyer, one of the most up-and-coming players in the state, manned the No. 1 singles spot. He came through with two upset wins, his also in straight sets.
Iyer got down early in his match with Lakeville South's Chase Roseth, trailing 2-1 in the first set. But after that, it was all Iyer, who stayed patient and also drew energy from his teammates and Century fans.
"They were supporting me and pushing for me, and that helped a lot," Iyer said. "I love this team. It's like my second family."
It was that kind of day for Century. Pretty much everything it attempted worked. But it began with the acceptance — no, make that the embracing — of the lineup that Crossley threw out there.
"We all loved this lineup and embraced it," Chhugani said. "Today, everyone was just happy to be here and everyone knew what to do — knew what their roles were. Everyone was giving 100 percent out there. That's the best I've ever seen us play."
Besides Iyer and Chhugani/Hollman coming through, there was also Matt Christensen battling leg cramps at No. 2 singles against South and still emerging with a gallant and gutsy 6-0, 7-5 win; there was Nick Aney and Ghanashyam Unnikrishnan winning 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles; and there was Ben Joswiak and Hunter Thamert keeping their season record at No. 3 doubles perfect with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 win.
As for his part, Christensen had no question that he was going to finish things off, no matter the pain.
"I was going to play that match no matter what," the sophomore said. "There was no way I was going to quit."
Nearly all of what materialized Tuesday came as a huge joy, relief and inspiration to Century, which now can set its sights on something even bigger. The Panthers are gunning for their first state tennis title and will get their chance June 7-8 at the Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis, site of the Class AA state tournament.
"Having now gotten through today, we have an amazing shot at winning the state title," Crossley said. "We will be serious candidates to win it."
Century 6, Lakeville North 1
Singles: Varun Iyer (Ce) def. Sean Kelly 6-0, 6-2; Matt Christensen (Ce) def. Michael Kelly 6-1, 7-5; Nick Vossen (LN) def. Josh Christensen 7-6, 6-4; Alec Sargent (Ce) def. Carter Springer 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. Doubles:Gabe Hollman/Sahil Chhugani (Ce) def. Devin Nielsen/Ted Larson 7-6, 6-1; Nick Aney/Ghanashyam Unnikrishnan (Ce) def. Nick Hartshorn/Nathan Hamel 6-0, 6-1; Ben Joswiak/Hunter Thamert (Ce) def. Sharez Haider/Kenneth Yee 6-2, 6-3.
Lakeville South 4, Mayo 3
Singles: Sebastian Vile (M) def. Chase Roseth 6-0, 7-6 (7-3); Haakon Stans (M) def. Adam Harvey 6-3, 4-6, 3-1 (retired); Trevor Tatge (LS) def. Charles Bengtson 6-4, 6-4; Brad Golant (LS) def. Rohan Patel 6-3, 6-1. Doubles:Collin Sebring/Tyler Scharber (LS) def. Sam Morgenthaler/Clay Edwards 6-2, 7-5; Hunter Roseth/Tom Williams (LS) def. Simon Kennel/Joe Brozovich 7-6 (7-3), 7-5; Evan Wright/Pujan Patel (M) def. Ethan Boche/Brendon Sebring 6-2, 6-3.
Century 5, Lakeville South 2
Singles: Iyer (Ce) def. Chase Roseth 6-4, 6-3; Matt Christensen (Ce) def. Harvey 6-0, 7-5; Tatge (LS) def. Josh Christensen 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 11-9; Golant (LS) def. Sargent 6-2, 6-1. Doubles:Hollman/Chhugani (Ce) def. Sebring/Scharber 6-4, 6-3; Aney/Unnikrishnan (Ce) def. Hunter Roseth/Williams 7-5, 5-7, 6-2; Joswiak/Thamert (Ce) def. Boche/Sebring 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.