Saint Paul Academy got a little payback when it defeated Breck 5-2 to win the state Class A boys’ tennis title on June 7-8 at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis. It was the fifth state crown and first since 2008 for the Spartans (14-1), who were knocked out of last year’s state tournament by the Mustangs in the opening round.

“We had guys up and down the lineup who contributed all season,” said SPA interim coach Luke Elifson. “It was a true team effort.”

Elifson downplayed the revenge factor in the title win over defending champion Breck. “We very much respect their team,” he said. “I think both teams have a high level of respect for each other. Breck was simply too good for us last year.”

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SPA tennis
SPA first doubles team, sophomores Leo Benson & Maik Nguyen. Photo by Brad Stauffer

SPA opened this year’s regular season with a similar 5-2 win over Breck, which Elifson described as a signature victory for his club. During this month’s state title game, Spartan senior Harry Mahmic clinched the win with a 4-6, 6-0, 6-0 victory at No. 2 singles. Elifson spoke to Mahmic after he had dropped the first set.

“We talked about not being tentative,” Elifson said. “He trusted his game more after that. He was more assertive. It was a matter of him getting out of his own head because it was his last high school tennis match.”

SPA’s other winners against Breck were senior Alex Moore at No. 3 and seventh-grader Zahir Hassan at No. 4 singles, and sophomores Leo Benson/Maik Nguyen and freshman Jacob Colton/sophomore Baasit Mahmood at first and second doubles.

The Spartans earned their way into the final by topping Luverne 7-0 in the opener and Rock Ridge (Virginia) 5-2 in the semis.  The Rock Ridge matchup was a tougher challenge, but Elifson said his team wasn’t too worried about the outcome.

“We got to that fourth win pretty quickly,” he said.

The Spartans also had a notable presence in the state Class A individual tournament on June 9-10. Benson/Nguyen took third in doubles by defeating teams from Litchfield and Breck in straight sets, losing to Rochester Lourdes 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals and then beating Fridley 7-6 (7), 6-2 in the third-place match.

Colton/Mahmood also beat a Breck team 6-2, 6-3 in the first round of doubles, but lost in the second round 6-3, 7-5 to eventual champion Thief River Falls.

“That second (game) was a real good battle,” Elifson said.

SPA senior Kai Sih was ranked third overall in individual singles, but lost in the first round 6-4, 6-3 to Tate Reichmann of Minnewaska Area.

— Bill Wagner

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