Armstrong senior is ranked No. 2 in Class 2A
Armstrong senior boys tennis player Nikita Snezhko got his first taste of the state tournament last season, where he competed in the state doubles tournament alongside fellow senior Joe Lipovetz.
Snezhko, who played doubles due to a knee injury last season, and Liopvetz lost their first match of the tournament, but the duo went on to win the consolation bracket.
After his experience last season, Snezhko entered the 2017 season on a mission to get back to the state tournament, this time in the singles competition.
“I’m already thinking about state,” Snezhko said. “I’m already thinking about that final match, and I want to get the W.
“[The state championship] is the only thing on my mind, really. When I was a kid I always wanted a state championship, so an opportunity to do so would be fantastic.”
Snezhko entered the 2017 season as the state’s No. 2-ranked singles player in Class 2A, behind East Ridge’s Ben van der Sman.
“I wish I was No. 1, but it doesn’t really matter until the end of the season,” Snezhko said. “All that matters for me is the state championship.”
Snezhko has so far lived up to that high ranking, as he has played to a perfect 11-0 record so far this season.
“I’m feeling good, I’m getting used to outdoor tennis,” Snezhko said. “It’s way different playing outdoors than indoors, so I’m still getting used to it.”
Armstrong, on the other hand, slipped to 6-4 on the season after losses to Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Owatonna at the Lakeville South Invite April 29.
“One of our losses we had one of our key aspects, Joe Lipovetz, missing,” Snezhko said. “The other one we maybe had a mismatch in our lineup, we maybe should have put guys in different places.
“We’re still working out our lineups and combinations to have the best chance of winning.”
Despite his early success, Snezhko has continued to find ways to improve his game.
“I have stayed confident and I have been working on my game more,” Snezhko said. “I will pretty much work on my game until state.”
Snezhko’s work ethic and talent level has also impressed Armstrong head boys tennis coach Jim Uhrich. Uhrich believes that his team continues to be motivated by Snezhko, even though they have grown accustomed to playing alongside him.
“The older guys, they’ve played with him for three or four years, we’ve had a young team,” Uhrich said. “The younger guys, yeah he can inspire them.
“I don’t know if they know how good he is, really.”
Snezhko and the Falcons have just five regular season matches remaining before the Section 5AA tournament begins May 17.
Contact Chris Chesky at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.