Prep newsmaker: Cloquet's Sobczak excels on any stage
Cloquet senior Robbie Sobczak has been quite the tennis player for the Lumberjacks this season. He's also quite the Romeo.Literally. He was cast as Romeo for the Cloquet High School spring play this year."It's been really enriching for me," said ...
Cloquet senior Robbie Sobczak has been quite the tennis player for the Lumberjacks this season.
He’s also quite the Romeo.
Literally. He was cast as Romeo for the Cloquet High School spring play this year.
“It’s been really enriching for me,” said Sobczak, who along with a tennis teammate played Tweedledee and Tweedledum in the school’s fall musical. “From the musical, I’ve learned I’m more of a softer person than I thought I was. I’ve been really able to get everything out on the stage. I had to find a new me playing Romeo, but I’ve really enjoyed it.”
From the stage to the tennis court, Sobczak has been an artist this season at No. 1 singles for Cloquet. After finishing fourth in doubles in Section 7A a year ago, the Lumberjacks’ Romeo has risen to the top of the section’s singles ranks.
He already has two wins this season over past state qualifiers, beating Hibbing junior and two-time state doubles qualifier Scott Perunovich 6-2, 6-1 in Cloquet on May 2. Sobczak beat 2015 Section 7A runner-up Pete Summers of Duluth Marshall in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 on a windy Monday at Marshall.
“I’d like to give props to them because they are very good players,” Sobczak said of Perunovich and Summers. “It’s still a shock to me when people talk about it. I don’t have a reason to say this is why I beat them. It was in my favor that day.”
If you haven’t picked up on it, Sobczak is much more modest than William Shakespeare’s Romeo Montague. He’s also not as selfish.
Sobczak is playing well enough as of late to make a run at a spot in the individual state tournament, with his only two losses in Northland tennis action having come against Class AA competition - Grand Rapids-Greenway and Duluth East.
He is much more focused on avenging last year’s 4-3 loss in the Section 7A team finals to Hibbing, where Perunovich beat him at No. 1 singles 7-5 (7-5), 6-0. Sobczak wants to be part of the first Cloquet boys tennis team to make the state tournament because it’s his teammates that are his main driving force, he said.
“I’ve been doing well individually, but it’s all because of my team, please make that clear,” Sobczak said. “We work harder than most teams, I believe that. I think it’s mostly because our team has the goal that we want to go to the state tournament. I’ve been backed by every single person on my team. I’ve told this to many friends and family: my tennis team is my favorite team to be with because they are my absolute best friends. We’re a family and can share anything together.”
Cloquet tennis coach Derek Johnson said the loss to Hibbing really bothered Sobczak, but the result wasn’t a woe-is-me attitude. Johnson said he saw Sobczak - who admits soccer is his favorite sport and that he loves the game more than life itself - put in a ton of work throughout the summer and winter at the indoor tennis facilities in Duluth and Virginia.
This season, Johnson has seen Sobczak stick around after practices and matches to get in a few more swings and extra conditioning. Sobczak’s work ethic is spectacular, Johnson said.
“He’s not about himself, he’s about the team,” Johnson said. “He’s a super competitive guy. He wants to win. Anything he does he wants to win.
“His all-around game is solid. He has good hands at the net. He doesn’t have the most powerful serve, but he places his serve. He doesn’t get too many free points off his serve. A lot of top guys do get a big ace here or big ace there. Rob has to work a little harder, dig a little deeper for his points.”
Sobczak says his biggest improvement is tactically, such as keeping the ball in play more than his opponents. He said that comes from playing more on his own and practice.
Like soccer, Sobczak became involved in tennis at a young age thanks to his mother, Nancy. They’d hit the ball around together when he was young, but it wasn’t until seventh grade that he began playing competitively after being recruited by coaches in the lunchroom.
While soccer pushed Sobczak physically, tennis has tested him mentally, he said. It’s brought out a different side of him athletically, just as the stage has brought out another side personally.
“There is a mental ability to play tennis that you have to be so strong,” Sobczak said. “I’ve played so many sports, and I can honestly say tennis is probably the toughest. It’s not very physically demanding, but mentally it is a very challenging game. The mental and physical aspect of a good tennis match makes it so much fun to play.”
Face-to-face with Robbie Sobczak
If I could meet one person - dead or alive - who would it be? Jackie Robinson
If school were closed today, I would: Play golf and tennis
My ideal vacation: Cambodia or Thailand
Last website I visited: Minnesota State Tennis Coaches Association
If I had a million dollars, I’d buy: An indoor tennis facility in Cloquet
Favorite musician: Bruno Mars
Car I drive: Dodge Caravan
Favorite home-cooked meal: Mom’s spaghetti
At the top of my bucket list: Qualify for state tennis tournament