Prep tennis: Duluth East duo spells double trouble
Greyhound juniors Dane Patten and Ryan Delaney are two of the top singles players in the area, but are playing together in the doubles tournament.
DULUTH — Duluth East doesn’t just have potentially the two best singles players in Section 7AA, the Greyhounds also have a doubles team that is looking to win the section and compete at state.
Juniors Dane Patten and Ryan Delaney cruised in their team section matches against Duluth Denfeld Tuesday at Longview Tennis Courts and the Greyhounds topped their cross-town rivals 7-0.
Patten and Delaney are the first- and third-rated players in Section 7AA, respectively, and hope to lead the Greyhounds to a team section championship next week.
Patten, typically competing at the No. 2 spot, is a “crafty” player, according to East coach Chad Humphreys, who can adapt to whatever type of player he faces on the court.
“He’s able to put a lot of different types of pace on the ball — he can hit slice, drop shot and underspin,” Humprhies said. “He can overpower some players, but he looks for openings and he can toy with you like a cat and mouse. He can make you run all over the court, whether it’s side-to-side or forward and back. He just has a lot of variety to his game.
Patten has the skills to play from the baseline or at the net, Humphreys said, and those skills have led him to a 16-6 record this season and he hopes to lead the Greyhounds back to the state team tournament.
Last season, Patten partnered with Ty Kruger for the state doubles tournament, finishing fourth in the state.
With Kruger graduating last spring, Patten wanted to compete in the doubles tournament again — players must choose the doubles or singles tournament — and he needed to look no further than the Greyhounds’ No. 2 singles player, Delaney.
Delaney plays more from the baseline, according to Humphreys, highlighted by a strong forehand and a backhand that is nearly as good.
“Ryan’s got a real pure, smooth swing and stroke on a tennis ball,” Humphreys said. “He’s able to read where the ball is when it’s coming to him, if it’s on his forehand or backhand side. He’s typically able to be pretty aggressive and put that other player on the defensive.”
The pair are a great doubles team because they both start points off strong and don’t give away points, according to Humphreys. “They do a nice job on the serving side and being able to move the ball around — it’s not always in the same spot,” Humphreys said. “They look for the opponent’s weakness and on either the forehand or their backhand and they can hit a lot of different serves, whether it’s flat, spin or kick serve. It makes it pretty tricky for most players to deal with.”
The pair also communicate will on the court and do a lot of the little things that make a strong doubles team.
“I think me and Ryan’s game really complement each other,” Patten said. “I’m pretty quick and good up at the net and he’s got a pretty big serve and we both have pretty good returns. If we can end up winning our section then we have a good shot at winning a match at state, which is our goal, to do well down there.”
While the goal is to get as far as possible, Patten said last year he and Kruger had a favorable draw and this year he wants to make another good showing.
“The goal is just to play the best we can every match,” Patten said. “It we lose and we play the best we can, at the end of the day, shake your opponent’s hand and say, ‘Well done.’”
The pair will compete in the Section 7AA doubles tournament Thursday at Blaine High School and the team will play Cambridge-Isanti Tuesday in the section semifinal Tuesday at Blaine.
Denfeld improving despite loss
While the Hunters were unable to take a match off Duluth East, they have come along way in the eight years since coach Kaelyn McDonald took over the program.
The Hunters had been without a team for a couple years before she started as coach. The team had wins over Hibbing and Grand Rapids, something that hadn’t happened in McDonald’s tenure.
What’s more, the doubles teams have been more competitive too.
“We have a strong singles team, one to four,” McDonald said. “They’ve all been very competitive with every team that we’ve played and for the first time we actually had some doubles teams that were able to get the movement down…they’ve really worked on their movement and positioning.”