Gong has already faced many of the Class AA singles qualifiers
Eagan junior Allen Gong isn’t expecting any surprises when he plays in the state boys tennis tournament Thursday.
Gong, who is in the Class AA singles tourney, has faced almost all the other top players, either during the high school season or in U.S. Tennis Association junior tournaments.
“I think he’s faced every guy who’s there at one time or another,” Eagan coach Jordon Stevens said, “and he’s been competitive against all of them.”
Gong (22-0) plays Sam Murillo of Coon Rapids in the first round of the Class AA tournament at 8 a.m. Thursday at Prior Lake High School. The second round is at noon. Semifinals and finals are Friday morning, with the championship match scheduled for 11:30 a.m.
Bjorn Swenson of Mounds View won the 2019 Class AA singles championship as a ninth-grader. Now a junior, he is the tournament’s No. 1 seed. Gong is seeded fourth.
“A lot of the players at the state tournament, including Allen, have very similar games,” Stevens said. “They hit the ball hard and are very aggressive. Bjorn (Swenson) is quite a big hitter, a big kid. The same with Colin (Bedhun), the guy from Wayzata. He’s kind of a John Isner type.”
Isner, who’s 6-foot-10, is a former top-10 player in the world and is noted for a huge serve.
Gong defeated all the top players in the South Suburban Conference this season as well as East Ridge’s Luke Fridinger in the Section 3AA singles final. Gong’s 7-6, 6-3 victory over Fridinger was his closest match in the section tourney.
This is Gong’s first appearance in the state tournament. He came close two years ago as a member of an Eagan doubles team that finished third in Section 3AA.
“The two teams from Section 3AA that went to the state tournament that year (from Eastview and East Ridge) ended up playing for the state championship,” Stevens said. “If Allen had been in another section, it’s possible he would have already played in a state tournament.”
Gong will try to give Eagan a top-four finisher at the state high school tournament for the fourth consecutive year. Maxim Zagrebelny, who graduated in 2019, finished fourth at state as a sophomore in 2017, then took second and third the following two years.
Class AA doubles
Two Eastview teams will play in the state Class AA doubles tournament, which has first-round matches at 8 a.m. Thursday at Shakopee High School.
Senior Seth Fregien and eighth-grader Kaleb Ngwendson will play the No. 2 seeds, Christo Alex and Emmanuel Alex of Mounds View in their opening match. Eastview’s Section 3AA doubles champions, Raymond Liu and Andrew Liu, face Sam Skanse and Owen Skanse of Orono, with the winner possibly facing the No. 1-seeded team of Edina’s Otto Schreiner and Luke Westholder in the second round.
Second-round matches are noon Thursday at Prior Lake High School, with semifinals at 8 a.m. Friday, followed by championship matches at 11:30 a.m. There are no consolation brackets in the state tournament this year.
The Eastview duo of Nisal Liyanage and Sourabh Terakanambi won Class AA doubles championships in 2018 and 2019. Both have graduated.