On Monday and Tuesday, May 15 and 16 the Lennox High School tennis team competed in the 2023 State A Tennis Tournament at Tomar Park in Sioux Falls. The Orioles had an outstanding showing, with Jaxon Plank winning the State Title in Flight 1 singles and the entire team taking home State runner-up honors.
“Going into the tournament the team knew they had a chance do well, but they’d have to compete hard to at all flights to make this happen,” said LHS head coach Kevin Plank. “The team as a whole peaked and played their best tennis at the state tournament, which is exactly what we hoped for. I was proud of how focused we were and how hard we competed in every match, which is a big reason why we ended up as the Class A state runner up.”
The first day of The State Tournament started off with singles in which all six flights either had a bye, or won their first round to put them into the quarterfinals. Then in the quarterfinals the team kept their momentum going by winning five of the six flights, which put flights #1-5 in the semi-finals.
Once the singles semi-finals were set the doubles rounds kicked off.
In doubles the Orioles kept it rolling with all three flights advancing to the semi-finals.
In the semi’s, the duo of J. Plank and Cody Plank at Flight #1 cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 victory, the duo of Andrew Daugherty and Eli Plank battled in a tough match, but prevailed with a 6-3, 6-4 win in Flight #2. The duo of Gunnar Geiken and Noah Welch competed hard, but dropped the match to the eventual Flight #3 doubles state champion team of Rapid City Christian.
Day two started off with the singles semi-finals. J. Plank at Flight #1 cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 win over Sioux Falls Christian, giving him a match up in the finals against last year’s state champion, Noah Greni, from Rapid City Christian, in which Plank had lost to earlier in the season in a very competitive match that was decided by only two points.
In the finals the competition was fierce and neither player was holding back, but J. Plank was able to control enough points and pull out the first set 6-3. Then in the second set Greni came out with a little more energy and took an early lead. But Greni wasn’t able to sustain it as Plank’s game proved to be too much, and he took the second set 6-3 as well to earn the title of State Champion.
“It felt great ending my senior season with a win. Something I looked forward to all season was playing in that match so coming out with a win was the cherry on top,” said Jaxon.
Jaxon put in a lot of extra time outside of practice, hitting with people to prepare himself for people’s different styles of play. The extra work paid off. Jaxon had a great fan base behind him and he was happy to have the support.
“I think having classmates come and support is one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced in my high school career. Not very often do you get a student decision for a high school tennis match so that was cool to see,” said Jaxon.
What made this moment extra special for Jaxon was getting to experience it with his dad and coach.
“It’s something not a lot of people get to experience, and getting to it multiple times is something I’ll never forget,” added Jaxon.
Jaxon’s dad and coach couldn’t agree more.
“It’s hard to describe how proud you are as a coach when your are watching your team compete and play as hard as they can. But when some of these players are your own sons, it’s a feeling that is hard put into words. Watching them all work hard and then have success is a proud feeling, and then when you add the fact that Jaxon won the singles title, it’s hard to describe the emotions and words on how you feel. It’s something special that we will have as a memory forever,” said Coach Plank.
Jaxon graduated May 12 and plans to attend Augustana University where he will study exercise science while playing tennis for the Vikings.
At Flight #2, another one of Coach Plank’s sons, Cody Plank tried to avenge a loss to Dah Christ Moo from Huron from earlier in the season. The first set was very competitive in which Plank won 6-4. But Huron turned it up a notch and took the second set 6-2, and kept the momentum going to close out the match tie-breaker 10-8. Plank then battled against Sioux Falls Christian, but dropped the match 10-3 to take home a fourth place finish at Flight #2.
At Flight #3 Daugherty first squared off against Jack Squire from Sioux Falls Christian.
“The last two match ups for these two were very close and competitive, and this one was no different,” said Coach Plank.
Daugherty took the first 6-3, but Squire kept his composure and battled back to take the second set 6-3. Then in the match tie-breaker Daugherty jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, closing out the win 4-10 and a trip the flight #3 finals vs Joe Schneller from Rapid City Christian. Daugherty started this match off playing his best tennis of the season and took the first set 6-1. But Schneller stayed composed and battled back to take the second set 7-5. Then in the match tie-breaker they traded points back and forth until Schneller pulled away with the 10-6 win, giving Daugherty runner-up honors.
At Flight #4 Geiken started day two off facing James Woodward from Sioux Falls Christian. Geiken came out focused and ready and took the first set 6-2. But Woodward gained some momentum in the second set and was able to take it 7-5. In the match tie-breaker they both traded points back-and-forth and they had some great points, but in the end, Woodward pulled out the win 10-8. Geiken then took on Huron and closed out the win 10-4 to secure the third place finish.
At Flight #5 E. Plank started the day off against Rex Lefever of Sioux Falls Christian in the semi-finals. Plank played some of his best tennis of the season and came out offensive and aggressive, but Lefever was still able to close out the first set 6-4. Plank took an early lead in the second set and continued his strong play, but in the end, it wasn’t enough as Lefever won the second set 6-4 as well. Plank then took on Huron and earned a 10-8 win to take third place at State.
At Flight #6 Welch took on Aberdeen Roncalli to earn a podium spot at fifth place. Roncalli jumped out to an early lead, but Welch battled back to tie it half way through the match. But in the end, Roncalli was a little to consistent and pulled out the win 10-7.
In the Flight #1 doubles’ finals, J. Plank and C. Plank took on Rapid City Christian.
“This was another very competitive match in which both teams came out playing aggressively,” said Coach Plank.
In the first set Lennox proved to be too much and earned the first set 6-3. Christian came out in the second set and took an early lead and got up 4-1, Lennox battled back to 4-5, but Christian took the second set 6-4 to force a deciding match tie-breaker. Christian went on a run early to go up 5-1, Lennox then worked their back into it to tie it 9-9, but in the end, they couldn’t hang on and Christian won the title 11-9, giving the Lennox duo runner-up honors.
In the Flight #2 finals, Daugherty and E. Plank took on Rapid City Chrisitian. In the first set Christian came out of the gates and took an early lead, but Lennox kept competing and battled back, but Christian was able to take the first set 6-3. In the second set the score went back and forth, and Lennox took the lead at one point, but couldn’t hang on as Christian closed out the match with a 6-4 second set win, giving the Lennox duo state runner-up honors.
The Flight #3 duo of Geiken and Welch competed against Huron for the 3rd/4th place spot. The match was competitive and went back and forth, but in the end Huron proved to be too much by earning the win 10-7, giving the Lennox duo fourth.
As a team, the Lennox boys finished with runner up-honors as Rapid City Christian took the team title. Both J. Plank and C. Plank earned All-Tournament team honors and Daugherty received the Spirit of Max Award. This award is presented annually to a deserving senior following the State Tennis Tournament. The Spirit of Max Award is dedicated in memory of Max Beeners. Max was a courageous student and tennis player at Sioux Falls Roosevelt High School who passed away in June 1999 after a lengthy battle with cancer. In addition to tennis, Max was a leader in school, the community, and in his church. With a sense of humor and a million-dollar smile, Max kept his faith and met his goal of graduating from high school shortly before passing away.