It didn’t matter to juniors Frank Stich and Jacob Stork that they played second doubles for the Minnetonka High boys tennis team.
Playing behind the brother duo of senior Carter Smiley and junior Trevor Smiley, Stich and Stork compiled a 24-3 record and finished fourth in the State Class AA Tournament. And, by the way, they also helped Minnetonka repeat as the state Class AA team champion.
“The team experience is the most important thing,” said Stork, after the Skippers beat Mounds View 5-2 in a state semifinal match last week at Baseline Tennis Center. “All of us like to compete and help the team win.”
One thing opponents notice right away when they play against Stich and Stork is how tall they are. To be exact, Stich stands 6-6 and Stork is 6-4. You don’t see many doubles teams consisting of two players who can dunk a basketball, so that’s an adjustment opposing teams have to make.
“It helps to have a long reach when our opponents try to lob,” said Stich.
“We have so much reach on our overheads,” Stork added.
Both of these doubles players are very athletic. In the third-place doubles match at state Friday, June 9, Stich raced to the backline and hit a perfect volley between his legs for the point. It may have been the shot of the tourney, but, at the same time, it looked like business as usual.
Chemistry is another factor in the Stich-Stork success story.
“When we miss a shot, we encourage each other,” said Stich. “It helps that we’re good friends outside of tennis.”
“Frank sets me up perfectly for every shot,” said Stork. “With his big serve, a lot of times I only have to tap the ball over the net.”
Both juniors on this dynamic team like doubles.
“I would like to think I’m a pretty good singles player, too,” said Stich. “Our coaches are awesome, and I will do anything they ask. The coaches are a good team. John Wheaton helps the singles players. Dave Mathews helps with doubles.”
“Coach Mathews has taught us to pinch the middle,” said Stork.
“And he helps us a lot with returns,” Stich added.
The man who pulls it all together is head coach Dave Stearns, a long-time tennis instructor and former University of Minnesota co-captain, along with Mathews.
Stearns appreciates the team-oriented play and off-court contributions of Stich and Stork.
“They are mature, focused players, and also very nice young men,” said Stearns.
The Minnetonka coach asks all of his boys to play the game with integrity and honor. Certainly, Stich and Stork have embodied those principles.
Contact John Sherman at [email protected]