Tennis team on upswing headed to state meet

FILE PHOTOS BY MIKE CARROLL/PLAINSMAN On the left, freshman Roger Puterbaugh sprints to make a backhand return in Huron’s home match in early April against Sioux Falls Lincoln. On the right, Huron’s Flight 2 player, senior Reese Uecker, returns a shot against S.F. Lincoln earlier this season.

HURON — Although the season was anything but ideal due to the wacky weather this spring, the Huron boys’ tennis team has positioned itself to have a strong finish, according to coach Tim Hedblom.
The Tigers will close the season at the State Tennis Meet, which begins today and runs through Saturday in Sioux Falls.
“I feel that we are playing our best tennis going in to the tournament, which is exactly what we want,” Hedblom said. “I feel like the boys are confident and focused on the task at hand. We should end up with some good first-round draws, which is great.”
Leading Huron into the state meet will be a trio of seniors — Brenden Schlader, Reese Uecker and Tyrese Theus.
Despite facing some of the top players in the state in the No. 1 and 2 singles spots, respectively, Schlader and Uecker have stayed positive throughout the season and set great example for the younger players on the team according to Hedblom.
“They both are capable of picking up some big wins for us in the tournament,” Hedblom said of his top two singles players. “They bring great leadership, work ethic and positive attitudes to the team. They are great role models for our younger players.”
Schlader has gone 5-12 this season for the Tigers at No. 1, while Uecker is 2-13 at No. 2. Theus fills the No. 6 spot in the Huron singles lineup and enters the state meet with a winning record at 9-8.
The most success this season for the Tigers could be found in the middle of lineup, which is filled by a pair of sophomores and freshman.
Eh Dah, a sophomore, went 14-3 this season at No. 3 and finished third in the Eastern South Dakota Conference Tournament, while classmate Eh Kalu was 12-5 at No. 4 singles this season. Rounding out the singles lineup for the Tigers was freshman Roger Puterbaugh, who went 13-4 this season at No. 5 and was second in the ESD.
“They have had a very strong year and are coming off a great deal of success at ESD,” Hedblom said of the middle of his lineup. “I think they have a good chance of medaling at the state meet.”
In the doubles competition, Dah and Kalu combined to put together a 13-4 record at No. 2. The duo reached the title match in the ESD meet, but finished as runner-ups.
“Eh Dah and Eh Kalu should end up with a good seed, which should work to their favor,” Hedblom said.
Puterbaugh teamed with Moo Sher Say to post a 9-8 record in No. 3 doubles this season for Huron, while Schlader and Uecker were 4-11 in No. 1 doubles.
“Roger and Moo Sher also should end up with a decent seed,” Hedblom said. “Brenden and Reese have the ability to pick up some big wins for us.”
After finishing 18th a year ago, Hedblom is looking for his team to finish in the top half of the 24-team field this season.
“As a team, I would like to see us finish in the top 10,” he said. “If everyone plays the way they are capable, that is definitely a possibility.”
Sioux Falls Lincoln has won the last five state championships, with Rapid City Stevens finishing as the runner-up the past two seasons.
A seeding meeting for the tournament was held Wednesday, with play slated to begin at 8 a.m. Today. First and second flight singles, along with first flight doubles will play at McKennan Park today and Friday, while third and fourth flight singles, along with second flight doubles will be played at Sioux Falls Washington today and Friday, and fifth and sixth flight singles and third flight doubles will be played at Brandon Valley today and Friday.
During the final day of competition on Saturday, all matches will be played at McKennan Park beginning at 8 a.m.
In the event of inclement weather, the tournament will be moved indoors to Huether Family Match Pointe, Great Life at Woodlake and Country Club of Sioux Falls.  

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