MADISON — While their ultimate goal was to win the Big Eight Conference championship the Sun Prairie boys tennis team still can be proud of their runner-up finish.
Behind singles champions Josh and Jacob Baldwin, the Cardinals racked up 41 points over the two days at Nielsen Tennis Stadium to finish runner-up to Middleton (44).
“We were able to get five flights into the finals, all four of our singles and No. 2 doubles made it to the championship match; I don’t think that’s ever happened,” said Sun Prairie co-head coach Ryan Reischel. “I told the guys that if they played at or above their seed, we’d be in contention. That’s exactly what they did.”
The Baldwin brothers were spectacular in earning Big Eight titles at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles.
Junior Josh Baldwin earned his third Big Eight crown in as many years going 3-0 at No. 2. Baldwin defeated Beloit’s Matthew Wick 6-0, 6-1 in the quarterfinals and Madison Memorial’s Albert Men, 6-0, 6-1 to reach the championship match.
Baldwin then faced Middleton’s Ian Connell where he again won in straight sets, 6-2, 6-0.
“He hit a rough patch about two weeks ago where he was undefeated and then lost five out of seven matches,” said Reischel. “Granted, some of that was due to the competition we were playing, but sometimes it’s hard to convince a high school kid that ‘you’re fine, you’re playing ok, you’re just playing really good people.’
“He played like he has been 90-95 percent of the season; I’m super happy for him.”
Baldwin also captured the No. 2 singles title as a freshman, while last season teamed up with Elijah Schimelpfenig to claim the No. 1 doubles crown.
Like his brother freshman Jacob Baldwin stood atop the podium. Baldwin defeated Janesville Parker’s Andrew Cunningham 6-0, 6-0 in the quarterfinals, and Middleton’s Jacob Mandelbrot 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals to set up a showdown with top-seeded Kush Nagpal of Verona.
After winning the first set 6-3, Baldwin dropped the second set 5-7, forcing the No. 3 flight to go to a winner-take-all third set.
Baldwin got up 1-0 early, but then Nagpal was forced to retire with an injury.
“Jacob just plays so poised, he plays with an even temperament that just suits singles players,” said Reischel. “Being a freshman and being able to take the third flight in a super-tough conference, probably the best in the state.”
Sun Prairie’s other two singles players, Aidan Schutter at No. 1 and Jonathan Pulver at No. 4, reached their respective championship flights as well.
Schutter, a senior, may have finished second but in the process exocised a demon when he defeated Middleton’s Ryan Gold in the semis, 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.
“(Gold’s) been his nemesis,” Reischel said. “Not that he isn’t strong and one of the best players in the state, but Aidan needed that match.”
Schutter fell to top-seeded Will Tennison of Verona in the finals, 6-2, 6-1.
Pulver, a junior reached the No. 4 finals with decisions over Parker’s Ben Skaleski and Memorial’s Srihari Gopalan. Pulver faced Verona’s Chris Queoff but fell, 6-1, 6-2.
The Cardinals’ No. 2 tandem of sophomore Erik Spence and freshman Kyle Helmenstine earned a runner-up finish.
After beating Janesville Parker and Madison Memorial, the SP duo faced Middleton’s Gene Yan and Alton Kim in the finals where they lost 6-1, 6-3.
Sun Prairie’s No. 3 doubles team of seniors Jet Matteson and Sachin Suresh earned fifth place after beating Madison La Follette’, 6-4, 6-2.
“All their wins (in conference) were three-set wins, and they won another in the semifinals; I’m just really proud of those guys that whenever they’re in a close situation, they rise to the occasion; that’s not something you can teach, people either have it or they don’t. Erik Spence and Kyle Helmenstine have it,” said Reischel.
“We’re building up to what we hope will be our first Team State appearance.”
BIG EIGHT CONFERENCE MEET
Team scores: Middleton 44, Sun Prairie 41, Verona 35, Madison Memorial 31, Madison West 24, Madison La Follette 16, Janesville Parker 7, Janesville Craig 4, Beloit Memorial 1.