Mounds View tennis had a lofty, but realistic, goal at the start of the season: to win the state championship.
The Mustangs have achieved that objective, blessed with a bounty of talent including six junior high students in the starting lineup and with exceptional senior leadership.
Mounds View, ranked No. 1 since mid-season, turned back Eastview 5-2 in the Class AA championship match on Wednesday at the University of Minnesota.
“I told the boys before the finals we are the number one seed and we are the best team here,” said coach Scott Sundstrom, “and if we believe in ourselves, and if we trust that our best shots will fall, we will win.”
That they did, posting their 21st consecutive win, after a season-opening loss to Edina which they later avenged.
Each team pulled out a grueling 4-3 semifinal win in the morning, Mounds View beating Orono, and Eastview beating Edina.
It was the fifth state championship for Mounds View, and the second for Petro Alex, senior co-captain with Michael Cao and Kenneth Diao. Alex cruised at No. 2 singles against Eastview, and at No. 1 doubles with seventh-grade brother Emmanuel against Orono.
“We won when I was in eighth grade,” said Alex, who got the winning point that year against Elk River in 2015, “and since then, we have been favored different times, and didn’t win, but now as a senior we won it again!
“We had a chance to do something special at the end of the year, and we did it. We had great tournament and a great season.”
The Mustangs had faced Eastview before, winning 4-3 on April 29.
In the championship match, the Mustangs swept the singles, including No. 1, where Eastview has the top-ranked player in the state, sophomore Gavin Young. Mounds View freshman Bjorn Swenson, ranked No. 4, was leading 6-4, 2-0 when Young injured his achilles tendon and had to withdraw.
The other singles victories came from freshmen Luke Turkington and Johnny Yue.
Winning at 3-doubles were freshman Christo Alex and sophomore Peter Culp. Eastview, which had swept doubles against Edina, won at No. 1 over seniors Michael Ciao and Kenneth Diao, and at No. 2 against Emmanuel Alex and eighth-grader Hank Trondson.
“I had a different lineup for each match, which worked out well,” Sundstrom said. “Against Eastview, I knew that we were strong at 2 and 3 doubles, and knew that Bjorn would be tough, and we knew that Eastview would be more tired than us, because we had more time to rest after the semifinals.”
Michael Cao, who was region Triple A winner (arts, academics, athletics) and will attend Stanford next year, gushed about the young blood on the team.
“We knew we had a ton of talent, especially young talent, and we had the Alex brothers,” Cao said, about the team’s outlook at the start of the season, following last year’s third-place finish. “We lost a tough match to Edina to start the season, but that fueled us in a way, because we went unbeaten the rest of the way.
“Against Eastview, we knew all the spots would be really, really close. We are super deep, and that helped us win today. We have all those freshmen and everybody stepped up today.”
Against Orono, the Mustangs got just one singles point, from Swenson, but loaded up doubles and got a sweep including a nail-biter by Cao and Christo Alex, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5 at No. 2.
Sundstrom assessed the championship team as follows: “This is a cohesive team that blends really well. They care about each other, and they know we are all good players, from top to bottom, and that is rare.”
Mounds View 4, Orono 3
(1) Bjorn Swenson, MV, def. Karthik Papisetty 6-3, 6-2
(2) John Kasner, O, def. Luke Turkington 6-0, 6-0
(3) Caden Pfeiffer, O, def. Peter Culp 6-0, 6-0
(4) Owen Skanse, O, def. Johnny Yue 6-3, 6-2
(1) Petro Alex-Emmanuel Alex, MV, def. Emmett Halloran-Benjamin Bissen 6-0, 6-2
(2) Michael Cao-Christo Alex, MV, def. Matias Maule-Hugh Perrill 7-6 (9-7), 7-5
(3) Hank Trondson-Kenneth Diao, MV, def. Sam Skanse-Preston Perrill 6-4, 6-1.
Mounds View 5, Eastview 2
(1) Bjorn Swenson, MV, def. Gavin Young 6-4, 3-0 Ret. (Inj.)
(2) Petro Alex, MV, def. Raymond Liu, Eastview, 6-1, 6-0
(3) Luke Turkington, MV, def. Seth Fregien 6-4, 6-2
(4) Johnny Yue, MV, def. Anish Dulla 6-4, 6-1
(1) Nisal Liyanage-Shrinival Venkatasubramani, E, def. Michael Cao-Kenneth Diao 6-2, 6-3
(2) Sourabh Terakanambi-Davis Carlson, E, def. Hank Trondson-Emmanuel Alex 6-2, 6-4
(3) Christo Alex-Peter Culp, MV, def. Ronit Gupta-Andrew Liu 6-3, 6-3.