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Central earns four places, wins Sportsmanship Award at state tennis

Aberdeen Central’s Gabe Goetz looks to return a volley during his singles match against Sioux Falls Lincoln earlier this season nat the Holgate tennis courts. Goetz capped his high school career by taking fifth place in both singles and doubles Friday at the State AA tournament in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 5/6/2022

RAPID CITY – It was a memorable end to the tennis season for the Aberdeen Central Golden Eagles on Friday.

The squad ended up with four place winners and capped the tourney by winning the Sportsmanship Award.

“We have such a great group of kids. We really do. They get along with all the other teams. They’re just a great group of kids,” said Central coach Trent Kurtz. “We’re going to miss the seniors. They shown great leadership and showed the way for these other guys. I’m kind of sad the season’s over, but a credit to them for winning that award. That is a pretty cool award, because it’s voted on by the other teams.”

It was only fitting that Central’s top two seniors, Gabe Goetz and Ian Ahlberg, finished their careers by winning a pair of matches to take fifth place at flight one doubles.

“They’ve done a lot for me personally, a ton for our program and to see them win two matches was a lot of fun. To go out and get fifth, obviously that’s all-state recognition and on the podium. That was one of the goals they had,” Kurtz said. “That was just awesome to see our guys rally round them, trying to cheer them on to the finish line, genuinely happy and excited for them. That just shows the kind of kids they are. That was awesome. Definitely a highlight today.”

Goetz also finished fifth in singles. As has been his calling card through the years, Goetz plays his best in the biggest matches of the season.

Goetz dropped the first two games of the fifth place match before adjusting and reeling off seven straight games to take control.

“He’s so solid. He’s so smart. He played different styles,” Kurtz said. “He does whatever he has to do to win. Not many high school players can change how they have to play to win games. He can adapt to playing different opponents.”

On the opposite end of the age spectrum, a seventh-grader also took fifth in his first state tourney appearance. Mitchell Hofer scored a 10-6 victory over an opponent from Brandon Valley.

“He rose to the challenge,” Kurtz said. “He played absolutely outstanding.”

The match was back and forth until the midway point when Hofer took over.

“It got to 5-5 and then boom, it was over. He played phenomenal the last five games,” Kurtz said. “It was a huge win for him and a huge accomplishment to cap off a great year. To get fifth at flight three as a seventh grader, that’s very rare. Pretty impressive.”

Hofer teamed up with AJ Prehn for a fourth place finish at flight two doubles. While the duo lost both of their matches on Friday, they gave a good account in a semifinal setback against a squad from Sioux Falls Lincoln.

“Those two kids battled in that semifinal match against Lincoln,” Kurtz noted.

Hofer and Prehn trailed 3-5 in the first set before losing four straight deuce games.

“I think it shows those guys that they’re there,” Kurtz said. “They can compete.”

Aberdeen Central’s Ian Ahlberg looks to return a volley during his singles match against Sioux Falls Lincoln earlier this season at the Holgate tennis courts. Photo by John Davis taken 5/6/2022

Ahlberg lost a heartbreaker in the consolation championship, losing in a tiebreaker. He had two match points, one of which was erased on a let-chord winner by his opponent.

“He was 1/16 of an inch from winning that match,” Kurtz said. “He really did compete well.”

Lincoln ended up winning its eight straight state team championship. Sioux Falls Washington was runner-up. Central finished seventh.

Of the nine championship matches, six were decided in super tiebreakers.

“That superbreaker, I used to be against that,” Kurtz said. “It makes the match really exciting.”

The new format of playing a super instead of a full third set in championship matches wasn’t supposed to be implemented until next year, but was used this season because of poor weather.

“Obviously, it makes the tournament run smoother,” Kurtz said of the shorter matches. “It brings even more excitement to those championship matches.”

SINGLES

First Flight

GABE GOETZ: def. Alexander Rallis, Harrisburg, 10-3. FIFTH PLACE.

Second Flight

IAN AHLBERG: lost to Brock Kruger, Sioux Falls Roosevelt, 10-9 (7-4).

Third Flight

MITCHELL HOFER: def. Eli Woidyla, Brandon Valley, 10-6. FIFTH PLACE.

DOUBLES

First Flight

GABE GOETZ-IAN AHLBERG: def. Anthony Erickson-Charlie Grismer, Sioux Falls Jefferson, 10-3; def. Mark Mahowald-Curtis Sneden, Watertown, 10-5. FIFTH PLACE.

Second Flight

MITCHELL HOFER-AJ PREHN: lost to Drew Gohl-River McKenzie, Sioux Falls Lincoln, 6-3, 6-1; lost to Cooper Johnson-Will Koziara, O’Gorman, 10-1. FOURTH PLACE.

Third Flight

SEKOU GOGUE-MICHAEL FROHLING: lost to Max Phares-Tommy Nehring, Rapid City Stevens, 10-2.

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