Spartan tennis fights back

Orono boys earn section 2AA runner-up spot in best season since 2003

By MIKE KASNER
FOR THE PIONEER

The Orono Spartans 2017 tennis team. Front row: Graham Mehaffey, Derek Ogren , Robbie Leslie, John Kasner and Tyler Olsen. Middle Row: Preston Perrill, Matias Maule, Cade Pfeiffer, Ben Bissen and Head Coach Tim Arnold. Back Row: Assistant Coach Tan Nguyen, Calvin Goodyear, Emmett Halloran, Alex Berger, Conner Olsen, Andy Baran, and Tristan Peyton. (Submitted photo)

The Orono Spartans boys tennis team recently completed its most successful season since 2003. The Spartans were ranked No. 10 in the state since April.
The team also cruised into the Section 2AA final with a 6-1 victory over the South Section 2AA No. 1 seed Prior Lake. The win produced the opportunity to face the reigning state champion and No. 1-ranked Minnetonka Skippers to advance to the state tournament.
Spartans No. 1 singles player Conner Olsen faced Ben Wheaton the ninth-ranked Minnesotan for age-18-and-under players. Olsen rallied from down 1-4 in the first set and won 6-4, 6-3.
No. 2 singles player John Kasner faced senior Ahmed Atayev, who had lost only three matches in the last two seasons of team play. Kasner won easily 6-2, 6-1.
The Spartans No. 3 doubles team, juniors Alex Berger and Andy Baran played in the longest and most tightly contested match of the day. The Skippers duo of Adam Thompson and Christian Lund won the first set 6-4. However, Berger and Baran clawed their way back into the match with a 7-5 win in the second set. Berger and Baran played with the lead for most of the third set, but the Skippers forced a third set tiebreaker at 6-6. The Spartan pair took the tiebreaker 9-7 to complete the win.
Olsen, Kasner and Berger/Baran were undefeated in team sectional play.
The Skippers were very strong throughout the rest of their lineup and won the other four matches securing a 4-3 win and a repeat as section champions.
Skippers head coach Dave Stearns told the Spartan players that they were the best AA team they had faced this season. The compliment is a pretty big one, as the Skippers played and beat five teams that will be in the eight-team state tournament field in June.

Orono’s Conner Olsen takes section 2AA singles title

Orono’s Conner Olsen rips a two handed backhand during Section 2AA play at Gustavus. Olsen earned the fourth seed in the 16-player singles tournament, where he appeared in the quaterfinals in 2016. (Submitted photo)

Orono Spartans junior Conner Olsen won his first section 2AA singles title at Gustavus on May 30.
Olsen won four matches without losing a set, including wins over both Minnetonka Skippers singles players, Ben Wheaton in the final and Ahmed Atayev in the quarterfinals.
Olsen has been ranked fourth most of the season in the AA coach’s poll and carries an 18-1 match record into the state tournament at Baseline Tennis Center on the University of Minnesota campus in June.
Olsen has been playing nationally for almost two years and is already ranked as one of the top 500 junior players in the country according to the United States Tennis Association. “Conner has been working hard and it is paying off for him,” Spartans coach Tim Arnold said.
Olsen has been seeded fourth in the 16-player singles tournament and hopes to build off his appearance in the quarterfinals in 2016.