Gillespie and Onkka finish third in doubles

Thief River Falls’ standout doubles team of Cole Gillespie and Carter Onkka didn’t have long to savor the Prowler’s highest finish in team history at the state tennis tournament last week. Wednesday evening (June 6), the Prowlers were posing for team photos with the program’s first-ever state runner-up trophy. The next morning, senior Carter Onkka and junior Cole Gillespie were back on the court representing the college in the state doubles tournament. Onkka and Gillespie, who entered the tournament with an unblemished 5-0 record and number five seed, opened the tournament with a dominant 6-1, 6-3 win over Dustin Bergstrom and Jonah Bergstrom of Pine City. Next up was the most important match of the tournament against fourth seeded Victor Nelson and Torsten Lee of Mound Westonka. The MSHSL does not use a true double elimination for the individual portion of the state tournament. Singles and doubles players who lose in the first round are guaranteed a second match and still have a shot at the consolation championship. First round winners who win in the quarterfinals are guaranteed a spot in the top four, while quarterfinal losers are eliminated from the tournament. Onkka/Gillespie needed a tiebreaker to win the first set 7-6 (7-4) over Nelson/Lee. They dropped the second set in a tiebreaker 6-7 (5-7) and won the deciding third set 6-3 to advance to Friday morning’s state semifinal round. “Overall, they were pretty good tennis players,” Gillespie said of the second of Nelson and Lee. “They were trying to get us out of position. They would move up to the net so we couldn’t do much with the ball and then they’d put it away. We just tried to keep the ball deep and keep them from getting up to the net and get to the net ourselves.” Onkka said that he and Gillespie had to use strategy and finesse in place of power as the tournament wore on. “When we played in sections here, me and Cole had more power than the other teams,” Onkka said. “Down there, they could match it, so they were trading strokes. Matching power with power isn’t always the best so we tried some other things, some chip shots, to get them moving and out of their comfort zone.” In the semifinals, Onkka and Gillespie found themselves paired against top-seeded Pavao Veldic/Kevin Turlington of Rochester Lourdes. Much like the teach championship a couple days prior, Veldic and Turlington kept Onkka and Gillespie off balance in a 6-1, 6-2 win. They weren’t overpowering, but it would have taken an almost perfect effort for Thief River Falls to get a win. “They are a pretty solid team,” Gillespie said. They didn’t miss many chances. We didn’t play as well as we did against Nelson and Lee. We still played decent but we weren’t hitting some of the [Continued from page 1] same shots we hit the other day.” “They don’t make many mistakes,” Onkka added. “We didn’t play our best, but they were consistent and didn’t screw up.” The third place match against Duke Nguyen and Jeffrey Huang of St. Paul Academy and Summit School was a lot like the quarterfinal match – three hard fought sets, with Onkka and Gillespie winning 7-5, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4. “That match kind of reminds me of the second round match against Lee and Nelson,” Gillespie said. “They made more mistakes but they hit the ball harder so it kind of evened out. They are both pretty hard hitters but once we got them running, it was basically our match.” The win in the third place match concludes a remarkable season in which Thief River Falls had its highest ever finish in the team event and Onkka and Gillespie added a third place finish in doubles. “For team, we knew we had a chance to do something,” Onkka said. “Cole and I knew we had a chance to do something. It’s one thing to say that we have a chance but its another to go out and do something. To prove that we belong there.” Head Coach Fabian Tunberg liked the way Onkka and Gillespie competed at state. “This was the first doubles team to be seeded in the state doubles tournament ever in [Thief River Falls] history,” said Head Coach Fabian Tunberg. “They both had that talent and grit and determination to make a dent at state. In the semi-finals, our boys were a little bit sleepy and we just didn’t have room for error coming against the number one team in state from Rochester Lourdes, who was the eventual state champions. “For the third place match, these boys wanted to go out with a win. This was by far their best match of of the individual portion of the state tournament. They moved well served well. This was also their seventh match of the week including team and they were in shape enough to close out another third set to win the third place medal.” The doubles win over Nguyen and Huang capped Onkka’s high school tennis career. As of now, it is also the then end of his competitive tennis career all-together. He plans to attend college at North Dakota State University and is undecided on a major. Results n Carter Onkka/Cole Gillespie, 3-1, third place – def. Dustin Bergstrom/Jonah Bergstrom, Pine City H.S., 6-1, 6-3; def. Victor Nelson/Torsten Lee, Mound Westonka, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 6-3; def. by Pavao Veldic/Kevin Turlington, Rochester Lourdes, 6-0, 6-4; def. Duke Nguyen (12) & Jeffrey Huang 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-4. 30 Gillespie is set to return for his senior season next year. I’ll be going to NDSU. Not sure what I’m going to study yet. When we played in sections here, me and Cole had more power than the other teams. Down there, they could match it, so they were trading strokes. Matching power with powr isn’t always the best so we tried some other things – chip shots, get them moving and out of their comfort zone. I don’t think we could have done much better,” Gillespie said. “We kept working hard. We had a pretty good season.