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Mayo, Century obvious favorites in Section 1AA boys tennis

Mayo is seeded first and Century second in a Section 1AA boys tennis tournament that begins Monday for the lower-seeded teams and Tuesday for the rest.

Mayo, Century boys tennis
Mayo’s Spencer Busch is introduced during a boys tennis match against Century on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, at Rochester Tennis Connection Outdoor Site in Rochester
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo
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All indications are that it’s going to come down to those two familiar foes again.

That would be No. 4-ranked Mayo taking on No. 9-ranked Century in the Section 1AA boys tennis tournament final, the winner bound for state. That’s the projection.

That’s how it went a year ago, Mayo ultimately prevailing 6-1 in the section final. And that’s how it’s gone almost always the last 10 years, Mayo meeting Century for the right to advance to state.

No doubt, these two Rochester schools have ruled Section 1AA boys tennis. Mayo reached state every year from 2003 until 2014. Then, in 2015, 2016 and 2018, Century flexed its tennis muscles, beating Mayo in those section finals and advancing to state. In 2019 came a rarity, Section 1AA team Lakeville South taking a turn at state. Then, after nobody advanced to state in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things got back to normal, Mayo going again from Section 1AA in 2021 after that 6-1 championship win over Century.

Look for that matchup one more time when the section championship happens on Thursday at the Rochester Tennis Connection Outdoor Site. Mayo is the No. 1 seed in a section tournament that begins on Monday for the lower-seeded teams, then includes top seeds Mayo (No. 1), Century (No. 2), Lakeville North (No. 3) and Owatonna (No. 4) on Tuesday.

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The semifinals and the championship are set for Thursday.

Mayo coach Jeff Demaray likes the looks of his team right now. The Spartans were overpowering on Saturday in winning six of the seven championship matches in the Big Nine Conference tournament. Their only losses this season have been to No. 2-ranked Wayzata and No. 3 Orono.

“I feel like we really elevated our game (Saturday),” said Demaray, whose Spartans are 14-2. “We try to prepare for the playoffs and want to play the best competition as possible to (do that)."

Mayo isn’t done preparing. On Monday, the Spartans conclude their regular season with duals against No. 5-ranked Mounds View and No. 7 Mahtomedi.

Mayo has also gone against the state’s No. 9 team, Century. That happened on April 19 and went fairly convincingly to the Spartans, Mayo getting wins at No. 1 singles from Tej Bhagra and No. 2 singles from Spencer Busch, then sweeping the three doubles spots.

Century’s best hope against Mayo — which is incredibly deep and dominant in doubles — is to sweep the four singles matches. That’s not inconceivable with Mihajlo Skulic fairly strong at No. 1 and Henry Kruse formidable at No. 2. Both lost in the first Mayo dual.

But for Skulic to prevail, he’d have to do it against eighth-grade sensation Tej Bhagra. Bhagra, ranked No. 8 in the state, doesn’t have a “big” game yet in terms of power, but rarely misses.

“He’s a great counter-puncher,” Demaray said.

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Bhagra counter-punched to the tune of a 6-1, 6-1 win over Skulic the last time.

Despite Mayo and Century looking like the clear-cut No. 1 and 2 teams in this Section 1AA tournament, Demaray also regards No. 3 seed Lakeville North and No. 4 Owatonna as serious threats.

NOTES: John Marshall is the No. 6 seed and begins play on Monday. The others seeds are Lakeville South (No. 5), Northfield (No. 7), Winona (No. 8), Austin (No. 9), Farmington (No. 10), Faribault (No. 11) and Albert Lea (No. 12).

SECTION 1AA TEAM

MONDAY, MAY 16

First Round

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No. 1 Mayo, bye

No. 9 Austin at No. 8 Winona, 4 p.m.

No. 4 Owatonna, bye

No. 12 Albert Lea at No. 5 Lakeville South, 4 p.m.

No. 2 Century, bye

No. 12 Farmington at No. 7 Northfield, 4 p.m.

No. 3 Lakeville North, bye

No. 11 Faribault at No. 6 John Marshall, 4 p.m.

TUESDAY, MAY 17

Quarterfinals

Winona/Austin winner at Mayo, 4 p.m.

Lakeville South/Albert Lea winner at Owatonna, 4 p.m.

Norththfield/Farmington winner at Century, 4 p.m.

John Marshall/Faribault winner at No. 3 Lakeville North, 4 p.m.

THURSDAY, MAY 19

(At Rochester Tennis Connection Outdoor Site)

Semifinals

Upper-bracket semifinal winners, 11 a.m.

Lower-bracket semifinal winners, 11 a.m.

Final

Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.

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Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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