by Scott DCamp
Thief River Falls won five of seven matches to defeat Perham in the Section 8A championship match and claim a spot in the Class A tennis state tournament for the first time since 2014.
Tuesday marked the 16th consecutive year that Thief River Falls competed in the section championship match, but each of the three previous championship match appearances ended in a loss to the Crookston Pirates.
Crookston was a non-factor in this year’s section tournament after graduating the bulk of its lineup last year. Thief River Falls emerged as the team to beat early in the 2018 season, with Perham coming the closest among section teams to knocking off the Prowlers during the regular season.
“It does feel great, to get back to the state tournament,” said Thief River Falls Head Coach Fabian Tunberg. “Every one of our players, at all seven positions, did what we needed to do.”
With six of the seven matches underway at 10 a.m., it was Perham who gained the early momentum with leads in four of the six matches.
Perham’s number two doubles team of Anthony Reese and Jordan Muench were the first to claim a set victory, winning the first set over Dylan Hahn and Noah Rupprecht 6-2. A few minutes later, the Prowlers had a lead in the three doubles match as Ethan Janisch and Aiden Martell claimed the first set over Nathan Kawelewski and Elijah Schmidt.
Momentum started to change in the dual as the Prowlers took the first set in a pair of singles matches, with Carter Onkka going up 1-0 on Perham’s Ben Winkels in the two singles match with a 6-2 set win, and Camden Broadwell winning the first set of the four singles match against Perham’s Drew Birkeland.
Onkka would go on to win the second set over Winkles 6-0 to give the Prowlers a 1-0 lead.
Perham, meanwhile, had taken 1-0 set leads in the number three singles match and the one and two doubles matches.
Broadwell was the second Prowler to secure a victory, claiming the second set over Birkeland 6-0 to give the Prowlers a 2-0 lead in the dual.
Janisch and Martell kept the momentum going, winning the three doubles match in straight sets to give the Prowlers a 3-0 lead.
Perham got on the board with a victory at one doubles by Gunnar Anderson and Ryan Murphy over Zach Twamley and Jack Onkka to cut the Thief River Falls lead to 3-1. The Yellowjackets added a second win at three singles, with Josh Peterson defeating Tucker Skime 6-2, 6-1.
Hahn and Rupprecht, meanwhile, had rallied to tie their match at one set a piece with a 6-2 second set win and Cole Gillespie had taken the court against Perham’s Carter Cresap in the number one singles match.
Gillespie came out firing on all cylinders and won his first set 6-0.
Hahn and Rupprecht kept the momentum from the second set and won six of eight games in the third set to clinch a Prowler victory. Gillespie won the second 6-2 to give the Prowlers a fifth victory in the dual meet.
Thief River Falls 5, Perham 2
* Singles – Cole Gillespie (TRF) def. Carter Cresap 6-0, 6-2; Carter Onkka (TRF) def. Ben Winkels 6-2, 6-0; Josh Peterson (P) def. Tucker Skime 6-2, 6-1; Camden Broadwell (TRF) def. Drew Birkeland 6-4, 6-0.
* Doubles – Gunnar Anderson/Ryan Murphy (P) def. Zach Twamley/Jack Onkka 7-5, 6-2; Dylan Hahn/Noah Rupprecht (TRF) def. Anthony Reese/Jordan Muench 2-6, 6-3, 6-2; Ethan Janisch/Aiden Martell (TRF) def. Nathan Kawelewski/Elijah Schmidt 6-3, 6-2.