ST. PETER - Fairmont senior Alex Kopischke started the second day of the Section 2A individual tennis tournament with a chance to earn a state bid.
By day's end, Kopischke had claimed a fourth-place medal in the singles bracket at the Swanson Tennis Center in St. Peter.
Friday's first challenge for the No. 2-seeded Kopischke was No. 3-seeded Jake Esenther of Holy Family Catholic in the semifinals. Kopischke cruised through the first set, winning 6-0 over Esenther.
"After the first set I talked to Alex and told him to forget about that set. Even though he won, I knew that it was section pressure or nerves and that Esenther would play better," said Fairmont head coach Eric Johnson.
Esenther did, in fact, rebound in the second set and came out and won the first two games to take all the momentum.
Kopischke managed to take two games in the set, but the long baseline rallies played to Esenther's strength after the Holy Family Catholic player won the second set 6-2.
Long rallies continued in the early games of the third set, with Esenther jumping out to a 3-0 lead.
"We knew that after the second set and at 3-0, we needed to change up his strategy. After a few adjustments, things started working," said Johnson.
The change in strategy seemed to work, causing Esenther to commit more errors, and gave Kopischke more offensive opportunities at the net. Kopischke won the next four games for a 4-3 lead in the third set.
Esenther would not go down easily, and they traded wins to move the third set to a tiebreaker.
Pressure mounted with a state bid on the line for both players, and at 6-6 in the tiebreaker, neither player was willing to break.
Kopischke had five match points, but each time Esenther responded to even things up. With Fairmont leading 9-8, both players charged the net in a long point, with Esenther putting a shot past Kopischke to knot things up at 9-9.
A long rally in the following point ended with Kopischke's shot sailing just beyond the baseline and gave Esenther his first match point.
Esenther won the game, 11-9, on a Kopischke backhand that landed just wide of the sideline.
"He was a really tough player, and he hit the big shots when he needed to," said Kopischke. "That's one match I'd like to have back."
Following the match against Esenther that lasted two and a half hours, Kopischke had just 15 minutes before heading back to the court to face Mound-Westonka's No. 5-seeded Sander Lee for third place.
Lee lost to the No. 1-seeded Holy Family Catholic's Connor Oberle, 6-2, 6-0, in the other singles semifinal.
Kopischke scraped together two wins in each set, but Lee had plenty of energy and controlled the match on his way to a 6-2, 6-2 victory.
With the loss, Kopischke finished fourth in Section 2A, and left Lee to face Esenther for true second and a state bid.
"It was a great day for Alex, he played really well against two strong players. And to go out having fun and playing well is a good way to end his high school career," said Johnson.
Esenther faced teammate Connor Oberle in the singles championship, with Oberle swiftly taking first, 6-0, 6-0.
Lee and Esenther battled to a third set in the true-second match. Once again, Esenther dropped the first set by losing 6-3, and then came back to win the second set 6-4. Lee recaptured the lead in the third set and went on to win it 6-4.
In the sectional doubles bracket, No. 1-seeded Mitch Elofson and Nathan Huber from St. Peter took first, dropping just five games in two matches.
Elofson and Huber defeated Mound-Westonka's No. 4-seeded Arend Turner and Luke Moorhead in the semifinals, 6-2, 6-0. That put St. Peter against No. 2-seeded Will Griffith and Wells Brose from Mound-Westonka.
Griffith and Brose had defeated St. Peter's No. 3-seeded Sam Peterson and Spencer Gault in the other doubles semifinal, 6-3, 6-2. In the final, Elofson and Huber dismantled the Whitehawks' Griffith and Brose, 6-3, 6-0, for the doubles championship.
Turner and Moorhead faced off against Peterson and Gault in the third place match, with the Whitehawks coming out on top, 6-1, 6-0. That put the Mound-Westonka doubles' teams against each other for a true-second finish.
In the true-second match, Turner and Moorhead upset their teammates Griffith and Brose, 6-4, 6-4 for second place and a Classs A state individual doubles tournament bid.