Chapter VII: Tennis Continued

– 1949, ’50, ’51 –

The years 1949, ’50, ’51 can be passed over with the minimum of comment for the reason that records of tennis events are too scanty to furnish material for a history of the sport in a period of decline. The Sagatagan for the year’ 49 furnishes the following information: “In the first match of the year the Johnnies tied St. Cloud T.C. and then went on to drop matches to Macalester, Augsburg and St. Olaf.” The Record preserved almost complete silence from that moment onwards. In a note included in a review of the year’s doings in athletics, the writer hints that the season was particularly disappointing: “Tennis teams here in the future won’t experience the setbacks this year’s outfit had to endure. Ours was a good team, but the loop was much stronger than usual” (“Tooley’s Angle,” Record, May 26, 1949, p. 7). Members of the 1949 squad were: Thomas Brouillard, P. Pease, D. Knevel, John Broeren, P. Matthews, Raymond Raetz, Jose Irango, Richard Endres.

Fr. Arno was overburdened with work in the registrar’s office and in 1950 yielded the coaching position to student-coach Jack Broeren. It was a dismal year in every respect. Before the season was well under way the eight-meet schedule was cancelled because of poor court conditions and constant interruptions of practice by rain. When, after five meets had been cancelled and hopes for better weather still out of sight, the team decided to cancel the remaining four meets and wait for next spring.

The squad was made up of the following: Jack Broeren, coach, Edward Rieder, captain, Oscar Smith, Paul Pease, Ray Stovik, Tom Sinner, Maurice Northrup, and James Leinen. In the May 11, 1950 issue of the Record, Jack Smith wrote an article pleading for concrete tennis courts. The wheels of propaganda were churning!

The 1951 season was little better than that of 1950. The courts were muddy as usual, and the six meets scheduled were all played off campus. And again the sports columnist questioned why St. John’s failed to put in courts of concrete that would be playable. “It is unlikely that St. John’s will make a good showing in tennis until weatherproof concrete courts are laid. Likewise, it is difficult to understand the lack of tennis facilities, considering the general soundness of the St. John’s athletic system and the terrific demand for tennis courts during the warm months by students and faculty alike” (Record April 12,

1951, “Snap Throws” by Wally Zallek).

On April 26, discouraged by the situation, the athletic department decided not to send a team to the MIAC tourney.

Members of the 1951 squad were Coach Broeren, James Leinen, Hal Duffy, Vernon Fahrenkrug, and Matthew Crawford.

– 1952 –

John Broeren graduated in 1951 and was succeeded by James “Jim” Peyton, son of Dr. William Peyton of the University of Minnesota and a 1914 graduate of St. John’s. Jim was an ardent tennis enthusiast, but he also had the qualities required for a successful student-coach. He was a first-year transfer from the University of Minnesota, however, and therefore was ineligible to play with the team.

In the fall of 1951, his first year at St. John’s, he had the opportunity to witness the intramural tennis eliminations designed to pick out the best of the freshman tennis crop. He therefore had his plans already made long before the opening of spring practice in 1952 and lost no time in getting the courts cleaned up and in playing shape before the spring eliminations started.

Out of a twenty-four turnout of tennis candidates he selected the following as members of his squad: Louis Adderley from the Bahamas, Joseph Collignon, an ex-Prep School star, Harold Duffy, Victor Lab, and Timothy Hogan. Top man of the group was Lou Adderley, a quiet, medium-sized competitor of tremendous potential and desire to win. Joe Collignon was the coach’s number-two man, an experienced player because of his years both on the high school and the college teams.

Of the seven matches scheduled, the Jays captured only one, an early meet won by a score of 6-1 over Hamline. There was plenty of background to explain the poor showing. In 1950 and ’51 tennis at St. John’s had reached its all-time low and the team had not yet advanced to a respectable level. The Jays dropped six games straight: St. Olaf, 6-1; St. Thomas, 7-0; Macalester, 7-0; Gustavus, 6-1; Augsburg, 5-2; and St. Cloud T.C., 5-2.

As could be expected from its pre-tournament record, St. John’s could hardly be expected to do well in the MIAC. But Lou Adderley surprised everyone. Playing tremendous tennis, he battled his way to the finals and lost only to the singles champion of the year, Bud Rae of Macalester. Macalester won the 1952 tennis title outright.

– 1953-

When the season opened in 1953, Coach Jim Peyton had no doubt that he had on his squad the two best tennis players in the conference, Lou Adderley and a newcomer named Leo Barbel. He was undoubtedly correct, for Adderley, who was to be the MIAC singles champion for the next three years, had been nosed out several times in singles by the phenomenal Barbel. Unfortunately, Barbel ran into academic difficulties and it was left to little Lou Adderley (five feet, six inches) to carry the burden alone. But he carried it well, and won the singles championship that had evaded St. John’s ever since the days of Clifford, Hite and Harrer over twenty years before.

The story of St. John’s 1953 season is short enough. Spring was relatively dry and the team managed to get along fairly well except on one or two occasions when the weather got unruly. On such occasions the Jays played either in St. Cloud or on the College of St. Benedict’s courts in St. Joseph.

Incidentally, Dick Christopherson, Record sportswriter for the year, had information proving that St. Thomas really had concrete tennis courts. His reference to the fact in the Record was a thinly disguised news item meant for the administration and designed to let the authorities know that St. John’s clay courts were badly out of date.

The MIAC championship was shared between St. John’s and Macalester. Members of the squad were Lou Adderley, Gene Deterling, Hal Duffy, Joseph Shorba, and Leo Barbel.

– 1954 –

Coach Jim Peyton was a man of action rather than of words. Instead of complaining about wet and muddy tennis courts, he took his team either to St. Cloud or St. Benedict’s for practice. Then, in order to compensate for the lack of concrete courts at St. John’s, he planned to take his team to the Twin Cities a day ahead of the conference meet in order to give the players at least some experience on concrete before the tournament opened.

Only two pre-tournament meets were reported in the Record, a loss to Gustavus 6-0 and another to Bemidji 4-2. Arrangements had been made to schedule meets with St. Thomas and Macalester, but again no reports were published. The sportswriters for the year wrote: “Actually, the tournament standings are the only ones that count in ranking the teams” -an incorrect statement, but at least an excuse for not reporting the individual meets.

In a preview to the conference tourney, Peyton was quoted to the effect that prospects for making a good showing were scant, but that he placed a lot of hope in Louis Adderley, “who took the tournament singles championship last year” (Record, May 21, 1954). The coach’s hopes were well-founded. Adderley won the singles title for the second time-and, believe it or not!-for the first time in the history of the Record, tennis received its first heavy black-inked headline. It read: “ADDERLEY REPEATS: Lou captures singles trophy!” In the accompanying story we read: “A rare feat in the annals of St. John’s tennis history was accomplished this spring by a boy who had never played a game of tennis before entering St. John’s. Lou Adderley, a 5′ 6″ junior from Nassau, Bahama Islands, captured the MIAC singles championship for the second consecutive year. . . . Adderley swept through the semi-finals with great ease, then defeated Gustavus ace George Heiber, 6-3, 6-2, for the crown. . . . This is Adderley’s second championship in the conference this year. In March he won the 130 lb. wrestling title, as the Jays swept to their third straight MIAC crown in the mat sport” (Record, June 25, 1954).

The 1954 championship was shared between St. Thomas and St. John’s.

– 1955-

With the graduation of Jim Peyton, Lou Adderley, now a senior and defending champion in tennis seeking his third consecutive championship, was appointed coach of the team. He had fourteen aspiring candidates for positions on the team and two veterans, senior Jerry Altman and James Ramsay. After the elimination try-outs, the team was comprised of Jerry Altman, Lou Adderley, James Ramsay, Ambrose Marier, Michael Sivinski, Pat Wangen, and Mark Dundon. Adderley himself was not only the coach; he was the top player, half a team by himself.

Lou Adderley’s term as coach was marked by the comparatively limited number of meets, not the long string of contests that some thought might have hindered the progress of the teams rather than improved them. In the first of these meets St. John’s lost to Gustavus 4-3 and tied Macalester 3-3, a splendid record when compared with what the Jays had been doing in the previous few years. In them Lou was the star supreme. Against Gustavus he won two singles without a hitch, then won a doubles match with Jim Ramsay as his partner. In the match with Macalester he won the singles and doubles with Michael Sivinski and chalked up his second doubles match.

The MIAC tourney was held May 20-21 at Macalester. Once more Adderley was the sole St. John’s star.He won the singles championship for the third time, defeating Young of Hamline 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, and then overwhelmed Jack Roach of Macalester by scores of 6-0 and 6-4. It was through the single-handed work of  Adderley as coach and player that St. John’s ended the season in third place. Individual championships were awarded to St. John’s in singles and to St. Thomas in doubles. St. Thomas took first place in the team championship, with Macalester second and St. John’s third.

And so ended the athletic career of Lou Adderley at St. John’s. He was a “born” athlete, always in shape for every sport he attempted. During the winters he played handball and became one of the sharpest players on campus. In the winter of 1954-55 he took part in the Northwest Tennis Association matches in Minneapolis and advanced to the quarter-finals despite the fact that he had not practiced for months. He did not compete in the wrestling tournament in 1955 because of a back injury incurred early in the season.

But St. John’s recognized the little Bahamian for more things than his achievements in athletics. At the athletic banquet that concluded the athletic season 1954-55, the athletic director stood up to announce the recipient of the plaque inscribed to the senior who had contributed the most to athletics at St. John’s during the past year. Who was he? It was Lou Adderley, who had won the respect and admiration of every athlete at St. John’s. The burst of applause at the announcement was the final proof of their admiration and affection. In the classroom he had carried a B-plus average for four years, in athletics an average of A-plus. Above all his assets, however, was his personableness and modesty, his gratitude to Fr. Bernardo, Fr. Arno and Jim Peyton who had provided the tough competition that he needed in order to develop in tennis (see Record, June 24,1955).

But Lou Adderley’s career did not end at St. John’s. As soon as he graduated he returned to his home city and began teaching and coaching at St. Augustine’s College and has been there ever since. He is now headmaster of St. Augustine’s, a school of 890 coed students, one of the most prestigious schools in the city, both academically and athletically.

He was ordained a permanent deacon three years ago. He and his wife, a teacher in the government schools, are outstanding lay leaders in the Diocese of Nassau.

– 1956 –

During the summer of 1955 St. John’s finally constructed the long awaited, much-needed concrete tennis courts that were necessary before a consistent program of tennis could be carried out. By April 13, 1956, the date of the spring issue of the Record, the squad had already spent a week on the new courts and Dr. Maras, the new coach, was in the process of picking the personnel of the team. The greatest problem facing him was to fill the place left vacant by the graduation of Lou Adderley-and it was truly a big one, even though Lou was only five feet, six inches tall and weighed only 130 pounds.

Coach Maras, probably with the prospect of few bad weather cancellations now that St. John’s had concrete surfaced courts, scheduled twelve meets, only seven of which were played. The first meet was with St. Olaf at Northfield, lost by the Jays 6-1, the one point resulting from a singles won by Bob Claesgens. In a meet with Carleton the Jays again emerged as losers with an identical score of 6-1, based on a doubles victory by Raoul Kunert and Mike Sivinski, over against six match losses to the Carletonians.

All in all, 1956 was not an exciting tennis year. The one and only meet victory of the year was a 4-3 win over Gustavus. Captain Pat Wangen won a singles match 6-4 and 6-0, and a doubles, paired with Kunert, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. Bob Claesgens won a singles. The worst loss of the year was a 7-0 loss to Macalester. Wangen and Kunert were leading in a doubles match 3-0, when unexplainably they “blew” it to lose 6-4. The last match reported was a 6-1 loss to Hamline, the only victory being a doubles victory by Pat Wangen and Raoul Kunert.

Strange to relate, despite the mediocre record of the team in seasonal play, the Jays finished third in the conference race, tied with Hamline. Wangen and Kunert were runners up in doubles to St. Thomas, the school that swept the conference play in both singles and doubles. Dr. Maras left St. John’s at the end of the academic year with a very creditable tennis record.

Personnel of the 1956 Jays were the following: Mike Sivinski, Bob Claesgens, James Ramsay, Raoul Kunert, Pat Wangen, Ralph Kilzer, John Barbour, Ronald Johnson, James Carroll and Bob Kampmann.

– 1957 –

Dr. Maras was succeeded by Pat Wangen, junior veteran who, with Raoul Kunert, was runnerup in the doubles match against St. Thomas, winner of the conference meet. Coach Wangen was looking forward to a good season since he had lost only Mike Sivinski from the 1956 squad. Wangen and Kunert would remain numbers one and two men on the team, with Bob Claesgens moving up to third place. John Muenzhuber looked like a competent tennis man to fill the fourth spot of the team. Number five for the time being was left up for grabs among the remaining candidates.

At the beginning of the season it had been planned to schedule nine matches, but, whether cancelled because of bad weather or some other reason, only five were reported in the Record.

In the first match against Carleton, lost by St. John’s 5-2, the Jays won their two points in doubles matches: Kunert and Wangen and Claesgens and Muenzhuber. In the Hamline meet, St. John’s lost again, 8-1, with Muenzhuber winning the only Jay point through a singles victory. The Jays did no better against Gustavus in a match that ended with an 8-1 defeat for the Jays. Muenzhuber and Claesgens won the only match, a doubles, for St. John’s. In a fourth match against St. Thomas, the Jays improved their schedule record somewhat when Bob Claesgens won his first MIAC singles match. He also paired with Pat Wangen for a victory in the doubles.

The MIAC meet, scheduled to be run May 17-18, was looked forward to with anticipation by the squad for it was to be played on the St. John’s courts, and the Jays, especially Wangen and Kunert, had begun to play brilliant tennis. It was hoped that the team itself had caught fire and would perform up to its potentialities.

The outcome of the meet was not published in the Record, but according to the 1958 Sagatagan St. John’s finished in second place in the conference, though without winning any individual championships. Members of the squad were the following: Darrell Bohlsen, Robert Claesgens, John Michael Brecount, Ronald Olson, Pat Wangen, Thomas Hobday, John Muenzhuber, Gerald Halsey, Raoul Kunert, Mark Dundon and Charles Staley.

– 1958 –

An optimistic mood prevailed in the tennis world of St. John’s when Fr. Alfred Deutsch, O.S.B., “dean of the tennis courts,” accepted the appointment as the 1958 tennis coach. Pat Wangen, coach and captain of the 1957 season, gladly returned to the ranks in order to concentrate on the fine art of winning, a specialty that the players had been neglecting for a few years. The change worked. Between Fr. Alfred’s coaching and Pat’s concentration on winning, the Jays made definite progress. After losing four straight meets of the scheduled nine, the team defeated Hamline by a score of 5-2 and made the always strong Macalester netmen hustle before winning over St. John’s 5-4. This was the last meet of which we have a record.

Although prospects had looked bright from the beginning of the season, the new coach had his personnel problems. The team had lost Bob Claesgens and John Muenzhuber who had played major roles in the 1957 season. He still had veterans Tom Hobday, Ron Olson and Darrell Bohlsen, but all three lacked experience because of the monopoly of Claesgens and Muenzhuber. On the other hand, among the freshmen were two especially capable players, Michael Murphy, a high school star from Cretin High School in St. Paul, and Serve Wilson from Stillwater.

Alongside them were Jerry Pierre, Freeman Wong and Charles Steiner, all young players with definite signs of being future varsity stars. The Jays appeared to have one of their strongest but untried entries in recent years. The coach’s problem was how to take advantage of their multiple talents.

A detailed report on the fortune of the young Jays follows. In the May 2, 1958, Recordit was reported that the youthful Jays’ “raquette” squad had dropped matches to Macalester 6-3, and to Gustavus 8-1, their first outings of the season. In the weeks that followed, in one match with St. Cloud T.C. the Jays were defeated again 6-3, although Pat Wangen won his singles match and, paired with Serve Wilson, had also won the doubles. Things began to look better.

Following is the list of remaining meets that were played and their outcome: 1) a loss to Gustavus by a score of 8-0; 2) a victory over Hamline, 5-2, with Wangen and Wilson winning their singles. The two doubles combinations, Murphy and Kunert, Pierre and Hobday, won their doubles matches; 3) in the last meet Macalester defeated St. John’s 5-4, Wilson and Pierre taking singles, Kunert and Steiner, Hobday and Pierre winning their doubles matches.

St. Thomas won the championship, both in singles and doubles.

– 1959 –

By the time the tennis team began work in preparation for the scheduled meets, Fr. Alfred had already selected his squad for the 1959 season. It was an eight-man group made up of five lettermen: seniors Tom Hobday, Jerry Pierre and Charles Steiner (captain); two sophomores, Serve Wilson and Michael Murphy; and three freshmen: James

Plotnik, Peter Herzog and Wayne Belisle. They were a talented group, – all of them of almost equal ability. But there was no Lou Adderley among them and the coach was presented with the problem of determining who was the number one man, who the second, third, etc., in gradation. The problem was urgent, since it was a matter of selecting the team that would represent St. John’s best in the meets.

To solve the problem, Fr. Alfred devised a system of play-offs, similar to Fr. Bernardo’s “ladder” of a few years before. In the playoffs the best players would gradually occupy the top rungs. As the season progressed, the six topmost men on the ladder on the date of a tennis meet would then represent the team at the current meet. Besides solving a problem, the competition provided stimulation for making progress.

The pre-tournament matches began with an easy victory over St. Cloud State, 8-1, in which the Jays won five of the six singles and all the doubles. The second outing ended with a narrow loss to Macalester, 5-4. Though the team lost the match, individual players played good tennis, winning three singles and one doubles match (Record, April 24, 1959).

The May 8 Record reports a 6-0 victory over Augsburg. But at this  point the wheel of fortune began turning in favor of the Jays’ opponents. The Jays dropped a match 6-0 to St. Thomas, 6-1 to Hamline, 8-1 to Gustavus and 5-3 to Macalester.

The ladder system began to payoff eventually, however, for the May 22 Record reports a string of four victories without a loss: over. St. Mary’s 5-0 (May 9); over Hamline 7-2 (May 13); over Concordia 7-0 (May 16); and over St. Cloud State 7-2 (May 19).

By the time the MIAC tournament rolled around, the top occupants of the ladder were James Plotnik, Mike Murphy and Charles Steiner in the singles, Thomas Hobday and Jerry Pierre in the doubles. In the conference meet St. John’s came out in fourth place, a disappointment for Fr. Alfred, since he did not think that the Jays had played up to their potential. The results of the meet, from the St. John’s standpoint, were as follows: Mike Murphy drew a bye in his first round, then lost to Gustavus in his second round, 8-6 and 6-1. James Plotnik defeated Frazer of St. Thomas 6-2, 3-6, 3-1, 6-3 in his first round, then won in the second round by default. But in the semi-finals he lost to Gary Lawson of Gustavus 6-0, 6-2. In the doubles Thomas Hobday and Jerry Pierre defeated Hamline in their first round, then unexpectedly lost the second to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, 6-2, 6-1.

– 1960 –

In the fall of 1959 a tennis tournament organized by Fr. Alfred monopolized the tennis courts for the months of September and October. The tournament was essentially a freshman try-out designed to reveal who among the freshmen would be available for the 1960 varsity. The tournament was immensely successful, both as recreation and as a modified try-out for future varsity players. Emerging from the flock of contestants were some excellent prospects: Paul Lorenz from Austin, a fine singles player; Tom Kramer from Fairmont, who battled Lorenz for the number one position; Ben Pulkrabek, who became a famous member of the wrestling team. Also very promising were Bob Krause and Paul Bridgeford.

When in early April it came time for the tennis team to train for the season play, it was evident how well the tournament had really paid off. Only three lettermen had returned from the strong 1959 team, Serve Wilson and Mike Murphy, the latter being the number one man, and into this nucleus were fitted Paul Lorenz, Tom Kramer, and Ben Pulkrabek, all three freshman prospects of the 1959 fall tourney.

There was little time to train the tennis team for the MIAC tournament that was to take place May 20-21, for the early period had been devoted almost entirely to the ten meets that had been scheduled. Unfortunately, the outcome of the early meets had not been recorded, and hence little is known of the SJU successes and failures except that they had started out fast and then had slumped. Of the last four meets just preceding the conference, three were lost to MIAC schools: to St. Thomas 5-4, to Hamline 5-2, to Macalester (who overwhelmed the Jays) 8-1. The second meet with St. Cloud State was a loss, 7-3. St. John’s ended in fourth place in the conference.

– 1961 –

The 1961 Sagatagan expressed Fr. Alfred’s confidence that this team was going to have a winning season. The only team member who had not returned was Peter Herzog. The real power was still intact in the persons of Captain Serve Wilson and Mike Murphy, supplemented by the talented sophomores Paul Lorenz and Tom Kramer.

Wayne Belisle, though not one of the above group, was a burly, tough competitor who fitted perfectly into either the fourth or fifth place. Four freshmen were also available, all of whom had distinguished themselves in the fall tournament: Paul Bridgeford, John Dale, Terry Mc- Dermott and John Goulet.

Although the team was potentially strong, the players had difficulty in winning as regularly as had been expected. Fr. Alfred attributed the early losses to the irregularity of practices or to the failure to play up to par-of which two possibilities he preferred the latter. Add to this was the well-known fact that the MIAC was a healthy organization whose members fought fiercely for conference titles. Later he concluded that the Jays had been matched against the strongest teams in the early part of the season and that in the later part of the schedule they should be playing the rest of the teams on even terms. As he had predicted, the Jays did begin to hold their own and won two matches and lost two. They vented their wrath by blanking Concordia 9-0 and defeating Augsburg 5-2. The winning streak ended with a loss to St. Thomas 3-6 and to Gustavus 4-5.

The stand-out player throughout the season was Paul Lorenz who had an individual record of seven matches won to only one lost. There is no record of the final MIAC meet and the championships awarded.

-1962 –

The story of Tennis 1962 is brief; in other words, it was not one of St. John’s great seasons. Coach Fr. Alfred Deutsch, after working hard over a two-year period to produce a strong 1962 entry, had the misfortune to lose all but two of his stars at one fell swoop of fate. Remaining from the previous year were two lettermen, Captain Tom Kramer and Paul Bridgeford, the latter still somewhat inexperienced in MIAC competition. Nothing daunted, the coach made an effort to build up his new charges through practices held every Wednesday evening in the gymnasium for the improvement of footwork and strategy at the net.

By the time of the first meet, April 4, the team had been selected: . Tom Kramer, Paul Bridgeford, John Dale, John Goulet, and four freshmen: Ronald Wrucke, champion of the fall tournament in 1961, Dick Evans, Tom O’Brien and James Mullin. The first meet was a smashing victory over Concordia 8-0, followed by a loss to North Dakota State, 5-4. Powerful Hamline clobbered the Jays in the next meet 9-0; St. Cloud State overran them 6-0. The Jays then made a comeback by defeating Duluth 5-1, only to lose to Macalester 9-0. The schedule ended with a victory over Augsburg 4-3 and a defeat by St. Thomas 6-3, a record of three wins and five losses.

Highlight of the season was Paul Bridgeford’s performance in a North Dakota invitational tournament in which he won the singles championship and St. John’s took second place. Following that feat, Bridgeford was named number one man for the last two matches of the season.

The MIAC tournament was held May 17-18 at Macalester. The Jays tied with St. Mary’s for fifth place in the conference. MIAC standings for 1966 in terms of points won were as follows: Hamline 15, Macalester 12, St. Thomas 9, Gustavus 5, St. John’s 3, St. Mary’s 3, Concordia 1, Duluth 1.

– 1963 –

Coach Fr. Alfred had a problem on his hands in 1963. Three of his five top players had not returned and left him without equal quality replacements. John Dale had scholastic difficulties and Tom Kramer had suffered a finger injury that would not permit him to play. But the situation turned out to be far from hopeless for he had among his freshmen Tom Arth, a St. Paul Cretin star who was a two-time Catholic high school champion. In addition to Arth were three other fine freshman performers, Art Grady from Saskatoon, Canada, Paul Stolpman, a former St. John’s Prep School player, and John Neill. Others from the 1962 squad, though not lettermen, were Tom O’Brien and Dick Evans.

Records of the season performances were not published regularly in the school paper and only through sporadic remarks in the sports column was it possible to follow the team’s progress. From a preview of the 1963 tennis season we learn that the team had begun the year of competition with a 9-0 win over Concordia and had then fallen to St. Thomas 6-3 and to Gustavus 5-4.

Great things had been expected of Arth and Grady, and indeed they played well, but especially in the early part of the season Paul Stolpman was a sensation. In the St. John’s loss to St. Thomas, Stolpman won the singles match over the Tommie ace, then teamed with Mullin to win the doubles. Likewise in the Gustavus meet, he defeated the Gusties’ number one man in singles and again won the doubles when paired with Arth.

The results of the conference meet were not published in the Record. Gary Hackenmueller in his “Sports Shorts” column for June 21, 1963, reported casually that the Jays had finished in third place in the conference: “Fr. Alfred’s Johnnie tennis team fared well against MIAC competition. Peak performances by a couple of prize frosh prospects, Tom Arth and Art Grady, spurred the local netmen to a third place finish in the MIAC tournament.

– 1964 –

 Fr. Alfred’s search for the ideal team, a squad of championship caliber tennis players, arrived finally-but he was now the faculty adviser and his star protégé Tom Arth was the coach. And it was a good team! It ended the season in second place behind 1964 champion, Hamline.

Prior to 1964, a tennis championship was determined entirely on the outcome of the conference tournament in singles and doubles. According to the new ruling, however, the winners of singles and doubles were simply declared the individual champions of the conference, whereas the team championship was to be determined by the number of season victories and the state meet. There was no chance  for quibbling in 1964, however, for Hamline won both the team title by an 8-0 record in the seasonal meets, and won both the singles and doubles championships in the tournament. St. John’s was runnerup with a record of seven wins and only one loss (to Hamline). As was expected, Hamline and St. John’s dominated the MIAC tournament. St. John’s Art Grady won two matches before losing in the semi-finals to HamUne’s Gustafson, the eventual winner in the singles finals. The doubles team of Tom Arth and James DeChaine, who had been undefeated during the entire season, lost to HamUne in the semi-finals.

The overall record of St. John’s in pre-MIAC meets was 12-2.

– 1965 –

The two strongest teams in the MIAC in 1965 were HamUne and Macalester. Tom Arth, the student-player coach, considered St. John’s the third team but also a well authenticated contender for the championship crown. He pointed to the seven returning lettermen from a 1964 team that had run up a record of twelve victories with only two losses. The team had experience also: three of the returnees were seniors, Jim Mullin, Dick Endres, and James DeChaine. Tom Arth, himself, the number one man and coach, was a seasoned junior veteran. Jack VandeNorth, sophomore, had advanced into the semi-finals in the 1964 conference meet against stout opposition before he was eliminated and was already playing a better game in 1965. Roger Nass was also an experienced veteran. .

The team started out well with a series of four consecutive victories, then had a few disappointing triangulars, but in the last part of the season was strong enough to compete for the conference crown at Macalester. Nevertheless, Hamline won the MIAC title. In a spirited review of the season, Arth, who wrote as well as he played tennis, commented: “Even as I look back on our past season, I still cannot possibly see how Hamline won the thing. And now that the season is over, I still feel that man for man we were the best team in the conference” (Record, May 26, 1965).

The conference record for the season was 6-2, with a third place ranking in the MIAC.

There was little reported about the MIAC tournament, won by Hamline. Rain interrupted the finals, which had to be completed in the Macalester field house. Tom Arth, top-seeded St. John’s player, lost in the finals to Shipman of Macalester. John VandeNorth won two rounds before being defeated in the semi-finals. Michael Musty, a tenacious competitor, won first place in the consolation match.

– 1966 –

Tom Arth proved to be a fiery, courageous leader. The loss of six lettermen from the 1965 squad left him undisturbed. He took hold of the coaching duties with vigor and functioned much like a catalytic agent in getting the most out of his players. He selected six men from among the freshman candidates-Joseph Nitzke, James Blanchford, Pat Murphy, Philip Richter and George Bachman-to back up veterans John Vande-North, James Mullin, and Mike Musty.

The team was a good combination of young and older players that came out fighting and won the first four meets easily over Bemidji State, Duluth, Augsburg and Hamline, the 1965 champion. They then dropped a meet to Macalester, the favorite for the crown, but came back with another string of victories: St. Mary’s 9-0, St. Thomas 7-2, and Concordia 6-0. Following these last three victories, the Jays unexpectedly lost to Gustavus 3-6, supposedly because of the absence of John Vande-North. The final meet held immediately before the MIAC tournament was a loss to St. Cloud State.

Despite the team’s fine showing all spring long, the players played below par in the conference and finished the season in fourth place. After a fine record, the results of the tournament were naturally a disappointment. A sportswriter in the Record for May 27, 1966, calmly accepted the verdict of fate: “A fine 8-3 season succumbed to ‘one of those days,’ and a disappointed crew had to be content with a fourth place showing.”

– 1967 –

The 1967 tennis team practiced indoors the whole month of March in preparation for the upcoming season. With five returnees from the 1966 team, prospects were fair for a winning season, although the loss of Tom Arth weakened the possibility of making a great improvement over 1966.

Arth’s successor as coach was by common consent John Vande- North, an experienced tennis player who had four years of high school and three years of college tennis to recommend him. Already as a freshman in high school at Fenwick High School, Chicago, he was the Catholic League tennis singles champion and in his junior and senior years was captain of the team. He frankly admitted that he had no experience as a coach, though he could correct obvious faults and hoped to have the ability to keep up the spirit of the team. When asked for a prediction for the coming tennis season, he replied with a positive assurance that St. John’s would challenge the league, might possibly come close behind Macalester, or even end in third or fourth place should HamUne prove stronger than they estimated.

As a nucleus for the rebuilding of the team he had senior Roger Nass, juniors Mike Musty and James Blanchford, sophomores Joe Nitzke and George Bachman. After the early try-outs three freshmen had been added to the team: Michael Daly, Ray Rossini and Bob Louisell.

The 1967 schedule comprised three meets with non-conference colleges (Mankato State, St. Cloud State, and North Dakota State), in addition to the other eight MIAC opponents. The Record reports on the season were extremely generalized, so much so that it is impossible to give a statistical account of the season. It was apparently an interesting season, however, although not in any way highlighted by dramatic situations or sensational play on the part of the Jays. About all that can be said definitely is that the Jays played winning tennis and ended the scheduled meets with an overall record of 8-3; in conference play the record was 5-2.

The final results of the May 12-13 MIAC tournament found St. John’s in fourth place, with undefeated Macalester finishing first, followed by Ramline and Gustavus in second and third respectively, and St. John’s in fourth. St. John’s failed to capture an individual state crown. Mike Musty, playing in the number one position, first defeated St. Mary’s number one but lost to Macalester in the semi-finals. Playercoach Jack VandeNorth, number two, won his first round but dropped the second to Macalester. Roger Nass, number three man, lost in the first round and was eliminated.

Players numbers three and four (Jim Blanchard and freshman Rossini) advanced to the semi-finals, with Rossini losing only in the finals to Macalester. Rossini gave a good account of himself as a tennis star in the making, possibly the match of Tom Arth in 1966. No reports were made regarding the Jays’ fortunes in the doubles.

– 1968 –

The new tennis coach James DeChaine, who was also Fr. Donald LeMay’s assistant in the Admissions Office, showed himself to be a skilled performer in the use of the crying towel prior to the beginning of the tennis season. The loss of three lettermen from the 1967 team did not bother him. It was the lack of indoor facilities for early practice before the tennis meets were started-the frustration of a tennis  coach in central Minnesota without a field house! Re complained that”Macalester has two indoor courts and has been able to practice off and on all winter” (Record, April 23, 1968).For this reasonhe scheduled matches with North Dakota State and Bethel as early in the season as possible before meeting the conferencefoes. The team returned  two days early from Easter vacation to practice. “We have more enthusiasm than ever before,” he said. Ropes for the future he based on seniors Mike Musty and Joe Nitzke, sophomore Ray Rossini, and three freshmen he had spotted as first-class material: Steve Pavela, John Rickner and Greg Schepers.

Coach DeChaine was far from wrong. In an eleven-meet schedule his team ran up a record of seven victories overall and a conference record of five victories and two losses for third place in the MIAC. Conference victories were as follows: over Duluth 9-0, Augsburg 5-4, Concordia 5-4, St. Thomas 5-4, St. Mary’s 5-0. Conference losses were to Macalester 8-1, and to Ramline 8-1. Against non-conference teams St. John’s had won two, lost two: losing to Carleton and Mankato by identical scores of 8-1 and winning over North Dakota State 9-0 and over University of Minnesota-Morris 7-2.

The MIAC Tournament

The two stars in the state meet held at Macalester were sophomore Ray Rossini and freshman John Rickner. Encouraged by the performances of these two players, the Jays scored nine points for a fourth place tie with Concordia. Rossini captured the singles championship and Rickner placed second in the number three singles.

At the end of the tennis season Coach DeChaine expressed his satisfaction with the team, but also his disappointment with the doubles players who, just as in 1966 and 1967, had played poorly in the MIAC meet. The failure to score higher than nine points in the meet was due in large part to the doubles players’ failure to win, scores being figured on the basis of one point for a victory in singles and two points for each victory in doubles.

Though DeChaine lost Mike Musty and Joe Nitzke for 1969, he remained optimistic for 1969, with Ray Rossini, John Rickner and James Volin around whom to assemble a new team. Volin had not played in the state meet for some reason, though his talents were recognized by the coach.

– 1969 –

Second-year coach Jim DeChaine carried out his promise to come up with an interesting, winning team in 1969. It was a light-hearted group, amused by the tricks of fun-loving, guitar-playing Ray Rossini and the tennis histrionics of Captain Volin and John Rickner. When Volin defeated the NIC singles champion, Rossini said he “was capable of anything.” John Rickner also beat the NIC champion and ran up a stretch of eleven matches without a loss. Mark Stolpman had a record of fifteen wins with only two losses.

With a group of twenty candidates to choose from, the coach dispensed with the elimination tournament and chose the seven best men, as they appeared to be in practice. He then took off for a training trip into Nebraska and South Dakota as soon as Easter vacation began. First they defeated Creighton University 5-4, then moved on to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a meeting with the state university, “where,” the reporter said, “they didn’t fare so well.” In other words, they were clobbered. On the way back they stopped at the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State, “soundly dumping both teams by identical scores of 7-2” (Record, April 18, 1969).

The regularly scheduled season was a heart-warming success. By May 9 (the last report for the season) St. John’s, Macalester and Gustavus were running a close race for the championship. Macalester was in the lead with a 9-0 conference record, the two St. John’s defeats. having come at the hands of Macalester and Gustavus, 5-4 in both meets.

The Jays defeated St. Thomas 8-1, St. Mary’s 7-0, Augusburg 7-2, Duluth 7-0, Concordia 9-0 and Hamline 5-4. Again the weakness of St. John’s was in the doubles division of the team.

The Record does not report on the outcome of the MIAC meet, though from the official MIAC list of championships Gustavus is credited with having won the title outright.

– 1970 –

There was reason enough to justify the high hopes of the 1970 tennis team for a good season. The top six players on the St. John’s 1969 team had returned to the school and were confident of their ability to equal their record of the past year, or even to surpass it. They realized that an element of luck would be necessary. Player-coach Ray Rossini and Captain “Jamie” Volin had no illusions regarding the strength of their opponents. Gustavus had been coming up fast and was rumored to have its strongest team in years. Macalester was traditionally a powerhouse in tennis, and Hamline was not far behind.

Backing up the two officers, Ray Rossini and James Volin, were the four other 1969 lettermen: John Hickner, Tom Farnham, Steve Pavela, and Mark Stolpman. Also in the offing were Pat Kernan, John Grobe, Mike Cahill, Greg Schepers, Larry Goede, Mike DeBevec and Dave Ebnet, all of whom could develop and displace any of the better known players who might falter.

St. John’s was still afflicted with its biggest problem, the lack of early spring practice. For a change the coach scheduled Easter vacation meets with Notre Dame, Purdue, Evansville University and West Kentucky. Unfortunately, it was a wet spring and the Jays met only West Kentucky (a strong tennis school that defeated them 9-0). Evansville University was beaten by the Jays, 5-3.

On their return the Jays won their first two meets, Augsburg 9-0 and Ramline 5-4. Records of the remaining six meets were not kept, but the Jays did well. St. John’s finished the season with a record of six conference wins and three losses, but an overall record of ten wins and three losses. It was a good year.

– 1971 –

Attitudes towards the 1971 season ranged between deep pessimism and moderate optimism. The pessimists called attention to the loss of tried veteran Jamie Volin who had graduated, Mark Stolpman who had not returned, and John Grobe who was not attending school the second semester. The optimists in a lighter vein considered the four veterans, John Rickner, Tom Farnham, Steve Pavel a and Pat Kernan, all of whom were eager to occupy the slots that had been vacated. Rickner especially called attention to the need of new strategy, more placement drills and game strategy-somewhat contrary to freewheeling Rossini’s theory of “hit the dang ball over the net and beat that brother.”

But the basic problem was still there: the need of early practice. This year the team was taking an Easter trip down South and East to Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina “where there was less snow and they played tennis the year round. It would be tough opposition, but you never learn by beating weak teams.”

The Easter trip had not worked out as well as had been expected. The May 7 issue of the Record lamented the “ill-fated Easter trip” after which St. John’s had not been able to field its top team. Games had to be postponed-for example, attendance at the funeral of their teammate Kernan’s father, weather-outs, injuries, and more time spent on studies. Team morale may have been low, for they could not hope to win over powerful Gustavus, and their only chance for a good season was success in the MIAC tournament. According to the Record of May 14, however, the Jays were still optimistic, with a record of 2-1 in the meets and sparked by undefeated Larry Goede. There the Record stopped reporting.

– 1972 –

The only descriptive information available on the 1972 season is the following article, “Fuzzball”: “The SJU tennis team spent five days of Easter vacation in the Twin Cities practicing indoors at the Minnetonka Racquet Club. Seven players made the trip: player-coach Tom Farnham, returning lettermen Mike DeBevec, Pat Kernan, Al Gauper, John Grobe, and freshmen Mike Perrizo and John Shannon. Freshman Mike Bromelkamp later joined the team. Returning from the Easter trip in good shape and high spirits, the team easily won the season opener against St. Thomas 7-2, but subsequent losses to St. Cloud State 2-7, Gustavus 0-9 and Concordia 4-5 produced frustration and disappointment. A 5-4 victory over Morris provided some encouragement, but matches with Duluth, Macalester and St. Olaf again brought defeat. The team recently split a triangular match with Hamline and Augsburg, beating the latter 7-2” (Record, April 14, 1972, p. 2).

The season record overall was four wins and eight losses. In the conference meets the Johnnies won two and lost seven. A highlight of these meets is the fact that the number three doubles team of John Grobe and Pat Kernan went undefeated.

In the MIAC tournament Kernan, Farnham and Perrizo advanced to the finals only to lose their matches. A detailed report on the conference tournament was not published in the Record. The team ended the season in fourth place.

– 1973 –

For the 1973 tennis season the coaching position was given to Captain Jerry Fitzgerald of the Military Science Department. Captain Fitzgerald, though not a professional coach, was considerably above average. He had a sound knowledge of basic tennis and, above all, the ability to handle men and work for a definite objective. He frankly stated that his objective was the MIAC tournament, not the small dual and triangular meets that had become traditional within the conference. His reason: “This season the MIAC title will be determined at a conference meet May 11-12. Previously the season won-loss record had counted half towards determining a champion, but this year only the two-day final results will count” (Record, April 13, 1973).

The new coach had a good team to work with. His star player was Carl Moschkau, a junior transfer from Loras College and the best thing that had happened to St. John’s tennis since the days of Lou Adderley, 1952-55. Flanking him were some fine netmen such as Mike Perrizo, Richard “Spanky” Sullivan (Moschkau’s partner in doubles), Tom Palmer, Paul Cashman, Thomas Wallraff and Mike Bromelkamp. At the end of Easter vacation St. John’s had a 3-1 record. Carl Moschkau and Paul Cashman were undefeated in singles, and Mike Wallraff had a 3-1 mark. In doubles competition Moschkau and Sullivan were 2-0, Mike Perrizo and Mike Bromelkamp 2-1, and Tom Palmer and Tom Wallraff 2-1. The Record reported: “Coach Jerry Fitzgerald thinks he has a young but solid team. He believes St. John’s could threaten defending champion Gustavus for the title” (Record, May 3, 1973).

By May 11, the day of the MIAC tournament opening, Coach Fitzgerald had changed his mind regarding the vulnerability of Gustavus. In the meantime, he had scouted Gustavus and was amazed at their power. Sportswriter Ernie Bedor wrote that “Second place will be the objective for St. John’s today and tomorrow in the tennis championships.” Coach Fitzgerald and the rest of the league had all but conceded the title to Gustavus. “Fitzgerald,” wrote Bedor, “says they have a ‘super coach’ who has recruited in Florida and taken his team on successful trips around the nation. Gustavus has beaten such schools as Oklahoma and Texas” (May 11, 1973). Despite his respect for Gustavus, Fitzgerald, nevertheless, thought that Moschkau, in singles, and Sullivan had good chances to make the finals.

The Record did not publish the results of the conference meet in 1973. Ernie Bedor, however, in a preview of the 1974 tennis season reported the meet results from St. John’s standpoint. “St. John’s finished second in the MIAC last year, but was far behind first place Gustavus. . . . St. John’s top player again this year is Carl Moschkau. As a junior transfer from Loras College last season, he racked up a 13-2 individual record, took second in the MIAC singles championships, and teamed with Sullivan to win the doubles crown” (Record, April 5, 1974, p. 8).

By virtue of their second place finish in the MIAC, the 1973 tennis team took part in the NAIA national tournament and St. John’s placed 28th. Members taking part in the contests were the seven contestants in the MIAC meet: Carl Moschkau, Mike Perrizo, Richard Sullivan, Tom Palmer, Mike Wallraff, Michael Bromelkamp and Paul Cashman.

– 1974 –

Coach Jerry Fitzgerald, following his successful season of 1973 and his second place finish in the conference race, planned an eight-day trip through Iowa in preparation for the MIAC tournament. In the space of eight days they were scheduled to play matches with Loras College, Augustana College, St. Ambrose, the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and Drake University, in the expectation that by playing stiffer competition than that of the MIAC the team would be better prepared to challenge Gustavus, since 1969 the perennial champion of the conference.

Making the trip for certain were top seeded Carl Moschkau and Rick “Spanky” Sullivan, the latter the number two singles man and Moschkau’s partner in the doubles. Other players hopeful of making the trip were Tom Palmer, Mike Perrizo, Thomas Wallraff, Michael Bromelkamp, and Paul Cashman, with John “Jocko” Vertin and Kevin McNew ready to step into the charmed circle if given the opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications. In fact, later in the season, after the try-outs had been completed, John Vertin and Kevin McNew were among the first six men on the squad.

Of all the members on the team, Carl Moschkau was Coach Fitzgerald’s best bet for a winning season. Carl’s individual record in 1973 was 13-2. In the 1973 MIAC tournament that concluded the season, he took second place in the singles championship and teamed with Sullivan to win the doubles crown. He was actually the one man responsible for the second place finish in the conference. Coach Fitzgerald generously acknowledged his admiration for his heady, driving play and considered him one of the best players in the state, second only to Peterson of Gustavus. Only Peterson could beat him, but mainly because Peterson regularly played against stiffer competition than St. John’s could offer. Strange to say, Carl preferred doubles to singles, primarily because doubles was a faster game with more volleys. 1974 was his last year of play on the college team.

In the conference the St. John’s record was five meets won to two lost; the overall record was twelve meets won and seven lost (Record, May 10, 1974, in “Sports Shorts,” p. 8).

The finals of the MIAC tournament found St. John’s in second place, as Coach Fitzgerald had predicted, and also second in the NAIA District 13 play-offs-in both cases behind winner Gustavus.

– 1975-

With the dropping of military science from the St. John’s curriculum in 1975, Captain Jerry Fitzgerald moved on to another military assignment, leaving behind him the memory of a fine gentleman and coach who had-to use Fr. Bernardo’s expression-“put St. John’s back on the map.” He was the one man who with the assistance of two star tennis players, Carl Moschkau and Rick Sullivan, revived interest in tennis, a sport that within a year or so became as popular a television spectacle as golf. But the Record staff failed to read the writing on the television screen and neglected tennis as furnishing newsworthy items for the sports pages. During the whole of spring only one article on tennis appeared in the school paper.

Captain Fitzgerald was succeeded by John Grobe, a former tennis stand-out from 1969-72.Team morale was good, and the players played with an enthusiasm that surprised even the coach. Rick Sullivan took over the number one position vacated by Carl Moschkau. Coach Grobe was confident that the 1975 Jays were capable of winning second place in the conference-though he was even more certain that it was futile to consider first place in view of the very evident superiority of the Gustavus power on the tennis courts.

Members of the 1975 varsity were John “Jocko” Vertin, Richard “Spanky” Sullivan, Mark Peschel, Tom Palmer, Kevin McNew and Michael Lilly. Outstanding on the junior varsity were Michael Bosanko, Robert Fischer, and Michael Dzuik.

The Johnnies completed the season in second place in the conference and second place in the District 13 NAIA play-offs, but did not attend the national in Kansas City because of budgetary problems.

– 1976

The opening of the 1976 tennis season found the Jays looking forward to a possible championship. Things were looking better than they had for several seasons. All the top six players of the previous season had returned and rumor had it that the Gusties had lost five of their best players. Coach John Grobe was confident that with hard work and a little luck this could be St. John’s year.

Led by Captain Rick Sullivan were the veterans Tom Palmer, John Vertin, Mike Lilly, Kevin McNew, Mark Peschel and Mike Bosanko. These were all seasoned, competent players, especially in the singles. They were out-distanced in the doubles, however, by the crack freshman duo John Hendrickson and Michael LaDouceur. The team was inspired by Coach Grobe and took advantage of every opportunity to practice in the new Warner Palaestra, a facility that revolutionized spring sports at St. John’s in every category. Several indoor tennis meets were held. The team first downed Bemidji and Stout by scores of 8-1 and 5-4, respectively, with Sullivan, Vertin, Palmer and Lilly doing well in the singles. Freshmen Hendrickson and LaDouceur were undefeated in the doubles.

At this point a defeat administered by their old nemesis Gustavus Adolphus shocked the Jays into the realization that the Gusties, though weakened, were by no means defunct. Canny Rick Sullivan sensed that they had lost much of their old power, however, and were vulnerable. He predicted the downfall of Gustavus from the conference throne. As for the squad, the team remained confident that after their trip into Upper Iowa they would be ready for any competition.

On their return from Iowa, where they had played fine tennis and racked up four victories, losing only to Iowa tennis powers, St. Ambrose, Drake University and Iowa State, they next defeated three conference opponents, Macalester, Hamline, and Duluth. In non-conference play they defeated the University of North Dakota and St. Olaf, only to fall to Concordia 5-4. Participation in the annual Blue Devils Invitational Tournament hosted by Stout State completed their preparations for the MIAC.

The 1976 MIAC tournament was held on the St. John’s campus, May 7-8. Tom Kozlak, the Record columnist, reported: “Good news and bad news resulted from the tennis meet. The good news is that for the first time in seven years Gustavus did not win the conference crown. The bad news is that it was Concordia rather than St. John’s that had the pleasure of dethroning the conference champs (Record, May 14, 1976, p. 15).

The Jays were proud to have assisted the Concordia Cobbers win the conference title, however. It was the Vertin-Lilly doubles combination that upset the seeded Gustavus doubles in the first round, enroute to their own number one finish as doubles champion in the meet. It was this doubles team that also defeated the contending Concordia doubles, thereby giving St. John’s the point that was needed to finish one-half point ahead of the University of Minnesota-Duluth for third place in the conference. The sensational freshman doubles pair of Hendrickson and LaDouceur that had gone through the season undefeated fell to Gustavus in the semi-finals. St. John’s finished in third place in the conference and fourth place in the NAIA District 13 play-offs.

– 1977 –

Tennis coach John Grobe was expecting his 1977 season to be the best in three years and the team to finish in second place in the MIAC. Initial success in the preliminary meets justified his optimism. The team was strong in depth with tried netters at every level: senior John “Jocko” Vertin, juniors Robert Fischer and Michael Lilly, sophomores John Hendrickson and Michael LaDouceur, and freshman sensation Michael “Chilippe” Philippe.

Success in the preliminary meets justified Grobe’s daring prediction. St. John’s won victories over four of the strong teams in the conference early in the season: Concordia 7-2, Macalester 8-1, St. Thomas 8-1, St. Mary’s 9-0, St. Olaf 7-2. The one great obstacle to a higher than second place was the redoubtable Gustavus team which fairly swamped the Johnnies in a devastating sweep of all the meet matches, 9-0.

The Gustavus defeat did not discourage the Johnnies’ hopes for second place in the MIAC, but, as often happened, the teams they had defeated comparatively easily in the opening weeks of the season had improved. Three of St. John’s top singles players were injured and unable to play. The end result was that St. John’s ended the season in fifth place, much to their disappointment. Gustavus won the tournament with a whopping 27 points; St. Thomas, St. Olaf and Concordia tied with 8h points each, leaving St. John’s in their wake with 7 points. It was not all defeat, however. A redeeming feature was the stout play of John Vertin who went down to defeat onlyin the finals to the Gustavus”superstar.” The doubles combination of Bob Fischer and Mike Philippe also fell to the powerful Gusties in the finals. In the NAIA District 13 play-offs St. John’s finished in second place, tied with Concordia with five points each. Gustavus again overwhelmed the other contestants and dominated all the scoring with 27 points.

Team members were Michael Bosanko, Minneapolis; Bob Fischer, St. Paul; John Hendrickson, St. Paul; Mike LaDouceur, St. Cloud; Mike Lilly, New Hope; John “Jocko” Vertin, Breckenridge; Mike Philippe, Chicago; James Prittinen, Virginia; and Paul Wotta, Milwaukee.

– 1978 –

Coach John Grobe was disappointed with the fifth place finish of his 1977 tennis team but was finally rewarded for his hard work by winning a well-earned second place in 1978, behind the almost invincible Gusties who again walked off with the championship. Second place was not an easily earned objective, however. St. John’s was plagued by injuries part of the season. In a triangular meet with Eau Claire and Stout, St. John’s had to default seven matches-a tennis elbow sustained by number one singles star Bob Fischer, a turned ankle by Mike Philippe, and strained stomach muscles by John Hendrickson.

In the regular pre-MIAC meets the team maintained only a .500 average, three wins and three losses: wins over Concordia (6-2), St. Mary’s (7-2) and Hamline (7-2), but losses to St. Olaf (2-7), St. Thomas (1-2) and Gustavus (0-9). Nevertheless, Coach Grobe was convinced that when the MIAC tournament came around his Johnnies of 1978 would fare better than they did in 1977. He predicted that they would take second place.

Grobe’s confidence was well-founded. Gustavus, as usual, came out ahead of the pack by garnering 25 points for first place by a huge margin. But St. John’s took second with a score of 12 ½, points, one ahead of St. Thomas 11 ½,St. Olaf 6, Augsburg 3 ½, Concordia 3, St. Mary’s 2, Bethel, and Macalester 0.

In spite of the overwhelming superiority of Gustavus, the MIAC tournament nevertheless had its thrilling moments. At the end of the first day of the meet (Friday) St. John’s and St. Thomas were tied at 11 ½ points for second place. On Saturday, however, Mike Philippe battered Hamline’s Klingenberg to defeat by scores of 6-1 and 6-4, thereby clinching second place for St. John’s, one point ahead of the Tommies, 12½ – 11½ . Another thriller was the battle of Bob Fischer with the Gusties’ Dick Schneider for first place in the number one category. Fischer lost, but the match was uncertain until the end. After winning the first set 6-2, Fischer was leading Schneider 5-2 in the second when suddenly Schneider rallied and won the match 1-2, 5-7, 1-6. Also in the finals, in a hard-fought doubles battle, Gustavus overcame St. John’s Mike Lilly-Bruce Ervin doubles combination 7-5 and 6-3.

John Grobe was especially elated by his team’s performance since he ended his coaching career at St. John’s on a winning note. He left St. John’s at the end of the academic year to take the position of admissions director at Carroll College, Helena, Montana. Of his 1978 team he said, “This is the best team effort we’ve had since I became coach. It was satisfying to finish ahead of St. Thomas and St. Olaf, since both teams had defeated us once each this season.” Members of the 1978 team were the following: Bob Fischer, St. Paul; John Hendrickson, St. Paul; Michael Lilly, Minneapolis; Michael LaDouceur, St. Cloud; Mike Philippe, Chicago; Paul Wotta, Milwaukee.

Surprise of the year was freshman Bruce Ervin, Edina, who was one of the stoutest competitors on the team. Two other freshmen, Michael Toninato, Grace Heights, and Timothy Claar, Bloomington, gave promise of being among the outstanding players of the future.