Tennis: New faces bring new promise to Panthers' tennis team
The Ellsworth Panthers were unable to seal a team win in their first two matches of the 2019 season, but their improvement was clear as they held their own against two talented tennis programs.
The Panthers, now coached by Ellsworth High School math teacher Mary Rumpel, lost 5-2 to the New Richmond Tigers — the 2018 Middle Border conference runners-up — on Tuesday, April 16.
Rumpel was especially proud of the way her team competed after both of her No. 1 doubles players were out sick with the flu.
"Every flight had to move up a flight, which is very difficult to do against a conference contender and being only our second match of the year," Rumpel said. "I was very proud of the way they all embraced the challenge and took New Richmond to closer games than their scores show."
Rumpel said her singles players did a "wonderful" job against the Tigers and first commented on No. 1 singles player sophomore Leo Berger who lost 6-3, 6-4 to New Richmond junior Logan Denucci.
"Leo took his guy to deuce many times," Rumpel said. "As the scores show, it was a close match that could change in the future as Leo gains confidence at this flight."
New Richmond's Dave Miller won the night's No. 2 singles match by defeating Ellsworth's French foreign exchange student Louis Gromaire, who had never played tennis prior to this season, 6-3, 6-1.
"Louis is learning a lot at No. 2 and also showed his talents with his consistent groundstrokes," Rumel said. "He still has some strategies to learn with singles."
Ellsworth's two wins on the night came from No. 3 singles player Adam Johnson and rookie Jack Janke who played at No. 4 singles during his first week of varsity tennis.
Johnson, a returning senior, defeated sophomore Tyler Dennis 6-2, 6-2 to claim his first conference win of the season.
"Adam at three singles was what I would call a wall," Rumpel said. "He showed a lot of consistency with his shots and outlasted his opponent in many rallies. He walked away very happy to win his first conference match and knows he can still improve."
Freshman Janke claimed 6-4, 6-4 set wins over senior Isaiah Dahl, and Rumpel said she saw her freshman gain confidence throughout his first varsity win.
"Jack, being a freshman, also did a great job of showing his athleticism and consistency," Rumpel said. "He fought back his nerves as a new tennis player and also brought back a very big win for us."
Tuesday, April 16: New Richmond 5, Ellsworth 2
No. 1 Logan Denucci (11) over Leo Berger (10) 6-3, 6-4
No. 2 Dave Miller (11) over Louis Gromaire (11) 6-3, 6-1
No. 3 Adam Johnson (12) over Tyler Dennis (10) 6-2, 6-2
No. 4 Jack Janke (9) over Isiah Dahl (12) 6-4, 6-4
No. 1 Matt Kukacka (12) and Brandon Dennis (11) over Brevin Bundy (11) and Connor Price (11) 6-2, 6-2
No. 2 Quentin Hayes (10) and Jack Davis (10) over Owen McChane (12) and Cedric Kosnopfal (12) 6-1, 6-1
No. 3 Joe Casey (10) and Ray Osterbauer (10) over Peter Olson (10) and Joe Schmalstig (10) 6-0, 6-0
Panthers show promise against Lake City despite 7-0 loss
Ellsworth wasn't granted an easy opponent for its first match of the season, but Rumpel said she was proud of how all of her players competed on Monday, April 15, in Ellsworth's 7-0 loss to the Lake City Tigers — especially her players who are new to tennis.
"We're a very inexperienced team; five of the top-10 varsity players of this match were out for tennis last year," Rumpel said. "But we showed at every level that we can play with people."
Berger lost 6-2, 6-0 to Minnesota's No. 8-ranked Mitch Maduec, but Rumpel was impressed by her sophomore's groundstrokes against one of Minnesota's top players.
Gromaier was also defeated in two sets against Alex Holmgren, but Rumpel believes the junior foreign exchange student will begin to see scores come out his way once he gains more repetition as the season progresses.
Rumpel added that her No. 2 and No. 3 doubles teams made their opponents work for everything they earned, and that a few different hits could have swayed the final results. Junior Brevin Bundy and senior Owen McChane lost their No. 2 doubles match against Ben Ackerman and Jack Bremer by set scores of 6-2, 6-4.
Senior Cedric Kosnopfal and sophomore Peter Olson were the only Panthers who sent their match to a third set. The Panthers' No. 4 doubles duo won their first set 6-2 but were defeated 6-4, 6-2 in the decidings sets.
"I look forward to seeing all our players continue to improve throughout the season," Rumpel said. "We just need to gain consistency and confidence."
The Panthers will continue their season on Monday, April 22, with a 4 p.m. match in Red Wing.
Monday, April 15: Lake City 7, Ellsworth 0
No. 1 Mitch Maduec over Leo Berger 6-2, 6-0
No. 2 Alex Holmgren over Louis Gromaire 6-1, 6-3
No. 3 Ryan Hiese over Adam Johnson 6-1, 6-1
No. 4 Joe Naffe over Jack Janke 6-0, 6-2
No. 1 Elijah Ender and Jacda Miller over Lucas Flom and Liam Moore 6-0, 6-3
No. 2 Ben Ackerman and Jack Bremer over Brevin Bundy and Owen McChane 6-2, 6-4
No. 3 Eli Miller and Trey Meincke over Cedric Kosnopfal and Peter Olson 2-6, 6-4, 6-2