GRAND FORKS, N.D. — When Mason Urlacher and Ethan Raan topped the No. 3-seeded team from the East region in their second match of the state boys tennis tournament, they looked at each other like, ‘What just happened?’
The doubles duo from Sheyenne High School was the No. 7 seed from the East heading into the state tournament in Grand Forks.
Urlacher, a senior, and Raan, a freshman, didn’t realize that victory over Grand Forks Central had just earned them All-State honors.
When the final point ended in the second-round match, their coach, Chad Anderson, had to go on the court and tell Raan and Urlacher what had just happened — that they won, were moving on and had been named All-State players.
With the Mustangs being one of the bottom seeds in the Eastern Dakota Conference, the wins were unexpected, Sheyenne head coach Anderson said.
Urlacher and Raan faced Minot, the No. 2 seed from the West, on Friday, Oct. 11. The doubles duo beat the Magicians in three sets (5-7, 7-6(2), 7-6(6)). They went on to face No. 3-seeded Grand Forks Central later that day and topped the Knights again in three sets (1-6, 7-5, 7-5).
"We knew we had a really good chance of winning (against Minot), but whenever you have a No. 2 seed against a No. 7 seed, it’s not always easy," Anderson said. "And they were able to pull it off in three sets with that first match at state.”
As a coach, the come-from-behind victory against Central was special for Anderson to witness.
“That was a big win for them, because that was something that nobody really thought was going to happen,” he said. “It reminds me why I coach, to see that excitement and just utter joy to be able to win a match like that and come out ahead."
Urlacher and Raan went on to play the No. 1-seeded duo from the East, Geoffrey Youngs and Maxwell Olson of Fargo South, on Saturday. The Mustangs fell to the Bruins in the match, their third contest of the tournament. Youngs and Olson went on to earn the state doubles title; the duo had claimed the East region title earlier this month. The Bruins also clinched the state tournament title as a team.
Raan and Urlacher next faced No. 6 -seeded Fargo Davies for the third-place title Saturday afternoon. They played to three sets against the Eagles and eventually fell 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2. The match earned the Mustangs a fourth-place finish, the highest individual finish Sheyenne has ever had at state in tennis, and earned them All-State status.
“It was quite the cardiac event. It seems like they were always getting behind,” Anderson said of his double team’s tournament play. “Their last match they played at state went into three sets again. That was really fun.”
Urlacher and Raan had quite the age gap between them. When Anderson paired the freshman and senior together, he had a feeling they could go a long way, if they could just catch a couple breaks.
“For them to get where they were and to win that first match, and then to win the second match at state, it was just kind of surreal," he said. “I always knew they could do it; it didn’t surprise me, but it was just the feeling of winning and just being able to tell those guys that after they won the second-round match, 'You’re All-State players.'”
In tennis, the top-five finishers for singles and doubles at the state tournament are automatically considered All-State players.
“I don’t know if it’s really set in yet, to tell you the truth,” Anderson said.
Looking back at the duo's success, Anderson said the freshman and senior’s games complemented each other.
“Ethan with his fantastic forehand, and Mason with his great serve and poaching at the net,” he said. “You couldn’t tell that was necessarily a senior and a freshman. It looked like they had been playing together for a long time. You didn’t see that inexperienced freshman.”
Urlacher, who had been named All-Conference at EDC, had some experience on the varsity squad a few years ago, but missed his entire sophomore season due to a serious illness. He was back playing his junior year, but wasn’t too high on the depth chart. Raan was around No. 8 on the roster last year.
The Mustangs entered this season following a fifth-place finish at the state tournament last fall. A young squad, Sheyenne lost five of its top-six players last year.