Century keeps climbing, lands 2nd at state
MINNEAPOLIS – If this is a hill that Rochester Century is climbing, you've got to like its progress.
MINNEAPOLIS — If this is a hill that Rochester Century is climbing, you've got to like its progress.
After 17 years of being shut out of the state Class AA boys tennis tournament, the Panthers have made it the last two years. Not only that, but they are ascending fast.
Century placed third in the event at the University of Minnesota's Baseline Tennis Center last season. On Wednesday, the Panthers took it up another notch, landing second to champion Minnetonka.
The Skippers, showing off tremendous balance, won the title dual with Century 4-3, breaking up what had been a perfect Panthers season. Century finishes 20-1.
Losing wasn't what Century had in mind. As the No. 2 seed, behind No. 1 East Ridge, Century loved its chances once it safely got into the championship. That followed a narrow 4-3 win in the semifinals Wednesday morning over No. 3 Mounds View.
"We were confident," said freshman Varun Iyer, Century's outstanding No. 2 singles player. "Last year we were an underdog. This year we were confident. In fact, maybe a tad bit overconfident."
Century learned the same thing that all three of Minnetonka's victims learned in this state tournament. It was that you can disregard that No. 4 seed that belonged to the Skippers.
In order, Minnetonka took down Edina, then No. 1 East Ridge, then No. 2 Century. The Skippers, it turns out, are the real deal. In winning, they provided 32-year head coach Dave Stearns his first state championship.
"They are the best team in the state," Iyer said. "I think we learned that there are a lot of good players in the state."
And especially a lot of good players wearing Minnetonka uniforms.
Century began the championship dual feeling like it was a fairly decided underdog at three positions. At the other four spots, it knew it had reasonable chances to win. That was especially true at No. 2 singles, where Iyer resides. Sure enough, he prevailed 6-2, 6-2.
"Minnetonka is a hard team to attack," Century head coach Nick Crossley said. "They are strong at so many positions."
Turned out that Century prevailed at three of the four spots it figured it needed. But that wasn't quite enough. Sahil Chhugani won at No. 1 singles, Iyer at No. 2, and the combination of Nick Aney and Ghanashyam Unnikrishnan at No. 1 doubles.
Century didn't leave with heads bowed. It knew that landing second in the entire state is a major feat. The Panthers were also proud of their fight.
"We had guys put in so much time in the off-season," said Chhugani, who along with Unnikrishnan were the team's only seniors in the starting lineup. "We battled as much as we could. I am proud of our team."
As for all of those Century players who will return next season — and there figures to be eight starters back — they know just how much potential remains with this team. They also know how much they gleaned from such seniors as Chhugani and Unnikrishnan.
"Our seniors have been great for us," said Century seventh-grader Josh Christensen, an up-and-coming standout who played No. 4 singles against Minnetonka. "We learned so much from them, like how to play and how to be a good opponent."
Century 4, Mounds View 3
Singles: Varun Iyer (C) def Jake Trondson 6-3, 6-4; Petro Alex (MV) def. Matt Christensen 6-2, 6-4; Josh Christensen (C) def. Kenneth Diao 6-0, 6-2; Alec Sargent (C) def. Luke Alex 6-3, 7-5. Doubles:Sam Hohenshell/Mike Conlin-Brnadenburg (MV) def. Sahil Chhugani/Gabe Hollman 6-2, 6-2; Nick Aney/Ghanashyam Unnikrishnan (C) def. Michael Cao/Chandler Hong 6-3, 6-0; Danny Zamow/Eli Grayson (MV) def. Hunter Thamert/Ben Joswiak 6-2, 6-2.
Minnetonka 4, Century 3
Singles: Sahil Chhugani (Ce) def. Ben Wheaton 6-4, 2-6, 10-8; Varun Iyer (Ce) def. Sterling Sibley 6-2, 6-2; Matt Kregness (M) def. Matt Christensen 7-5, 6-3; Ahmed Atayev (M) def. Josh Christensen 6-1, 6-2. Doubles: Nick Aney/Ghanashyam Unnikrishnan (Ce) def. Carter Smiley/Trevor Smiley 7-6 (7-2), 1-6, 10-3; Dan Wheaton/Jacob Stork (M) def. Gabe Hollman/Alec Sargent 6-0, 6-3; Brent Maghan/Frank Stich (M) def. Hunter Thamert/Ben Joswiak 6-4, 6-2.