ST. PETER - Fairmont mentor Eric Johnson did a 180 with his starting lineup against defending Section 2A team boys tennis champion and No. 1-seeded St. Peter during Wednesday's semifinal meet in St. Peter.
Johnson combined his Nos. 1 and 2 singles players from Monday's sectional quarterfinals into his No. 1 doubles team, while uniting his Nos. 3 and 4 singles netters into the Cardinals' No. 2 tandem.
Since both the Fairmont-St. Peter and Mound-Westonka-Holy Family Catholic playoff semifinals were moved inside the Swanson Tennis Center on Wednesday due to high-velocity winds and the chance of rain, each sectional meet started with the No. 3 doubles, No. 4 singles and No. 3 singles matches hitting the courts.
POINT TAKEN — Fairmont’s Grant Becker, shown hitting a forehand return on the move during regular-season tennis action in Fairmont, combined with Bruno Beidacki to capture the Cardinals’ lone point during a 6-1 Section 2A team semifinal loss to defending sectional champion St. Peter on Wednesday at the Swanson Tennis Center in St. Peter. (File photo by Chip Pearson)
Johnson's strategic maneuver paid early dividends as J.T. Viesselman and Alex Nelson claimed their third doubles match's opening set, while up-and-coming seventh-grader Tyler Head grabbed an early 3-2 lead in his fourth-singles battle.
"We tried to change things up a little with our lineup today," said Johnson, whose team lost a 7-0 regular-season decision to St. Peter.
Johnson's flip-flopped lineup did produce better results than the previous meet with the Saints - a second-doubles victory from Grant Becker and Bruno Beidacki and an extended match by the No. 3 doubles combo of Viesselman and Nelson.
St. Peter, however, weathered Fairmont's altered lineup to sweep the singles bracket, with the third doubles tandem of Avery Bachman and Kevin Saulnier netting the meet-clinching team point, to pace a 6-1 triumph.
Fairmont ended its team portion of the sectional with a 5-11 dual-meet record.
St. Peter advanced to Wednesday's team championship, only to be dethroned by No. 2-seeded Mound-Westonka, 5-2, for the state tournament bid. The White Hawks gained the finals by edging No. 3-seeded Holy Family Catholic, 4-3.
"I thought we played really hard at third doubles today. You have to give credit to Alex (Nelson) for being a new player who worked hard and really improved for us, while J.T. showed how our recent focus on fitness during practice paid off today," said Eric Johnson. "Grant and Bruno really played a solid match for us and came up with our (team) point."
Beidacki and Becker, this year's South Central Conference No. 3 and No. 4 singles champions, respectively, displayed stellar chemistry in erasing an early 3-2 deficit to Alex Nadeau and Alex Wilson at No. 2 doubles. Nadeau and Wilson, however, forced a first-set tiebreaker, but Becker and Beidacki regrouped to post a 7-4 win to net the opening set.
Ironically, Nadeau and Wilson built a 3-2 edge in the second segment before the Cardinals' killer Bs earn a pivotal service break to swing a 4-3 lead in their direction.
Becker's solid serving and Beidacki's net coverage fueled a Game 10 victory en route to a 6-4 second-set win.
Meanwhile, Viesselman and Nelson opened with a 6-4 first-set decision only to watch Bachman and Saulnier reverse the score in the second set in St. Peter's favor to force a decisive third set.
The third doubles teams slugged their way to a third-set tiebreaker, with Bachman and Saulnier outlasting Viesselman and Nelson in a frenetic finish, 7-5.
St. Peter's first doubles team of Sam Peterson and Spencer Gault netted a 6-3, 6-0 win over Fairmont's Alex Kopischke and Shawn Patterson, while Mitch Elofson paced the Saints' singles sweep with back-to-back love sets over Joe Washa at the No. 1 spot.
Nathan Huber downed the Cardinals' Ryan Busche at second singles, 6-1, 6-0, Matt Huber defeated Andrew Johnson at No. 3 singles, 6-1, 6-0, while Ezekiel Haugen rallied past Tyler Head at fourth singles, 6-3, 6-2.
The Section 2A Individual Meet returns to the Gustavus Adolphus College courts in St. Peter today, with action starting at noon.
Section 2A Semifinal
St. Peter 6, Fairmont 1
Singles: Mitch Elofson (SP) d. Joe Washa, 6-0, 6-0. Nathan Huber (SP) d. Ryan Busche, 6-1, 6-0. Matt Huber (SP) d. Andrew Johnson, 6-1, 6-0. Ezekiel Haugen (SP) d. Tyler Head, 6-3, 6-2.
Doubles: Sam Peterson-Spencer Gault (SP) d. Alex Kopischke-Shawn Patterson, 6-3, 6-0. Grant Becker-Bruno Beidacki (F) d. Alex Nadeau-Alex Wilson, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4. Kevin Saulnier-Avery Bachman (SP) d. J.T. Viesselman-Alex Nelson, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).