It was obvious there would be a leap of improvement.
Just how much, though, with no season a year ago to view, no one could quite expect.
Making the jump from competing for one of the top spots on the team to one of the top in the state, Coon Rapids boys tennis' Sam Murillo earned the program’s first trip to state in singles since 2002 with a runner-up finish in the final four of the Section 7AA Tournament in Anoka June 3.
Murillo’s wide-ranging game has only grown throughout his career. This spring, it helped him excel throughout the regular season. At the section tournament, it led to three straight-set wins with only eight games dropped in six sets en route to the finals, clinching a state bid.
“Sam has all the shots, so every match he can change his game based on what his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses are,” Coon Rapids head coach Scott Storrick said. “In addition, Sam is a mentally tough player. When he is frustrated, you cannot tell as he keeps it in and won’t let his opponents know.
“Since we did not have a season last year, the coaching staff knew Sam improved immensely, but as the season went along he was playing exceptional. Two years ago, Sam played anywhere from third to fourth singles, so having him at first was a huge step. He was beating players in matches that from last summer he was losing. Going into the sectional tournament, I knew that Sam could advance through the tournament if he played like he did all season. Sam ended the season with an 18-4 record at No. 1 singles, which is a phenomenal record.”
A standout individual, Murillo also served as a team leader for a young Cardinal roster. The accomplishments now serve as a guide for where future players can get to with time and dedication.
“I was so happy to see Sam make it through to the state tennis tournament,” Storrick said. “It shows what hard work will do, so I hope other players in our program will use this to work on their game to reach their goals they are setting up.”
“I feel like the season went well, not only for me, but also for my team as well,” Murillo said. “We had plenty of younger players get their first varsity wins.”
Murillo finished as the section runner-up in sweltering conditions. Now there will be one last tournament in store, competing at the Class AA State Championships June 10-11.
“Making it to state or getting in the top four for sections has been a goal of mine since eighth grade,” Murillo said. “I really feel proud of myself for putting in the hard work over the offseason and I’m glad I can represent Coon Rapids in the state tournament.”