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Cheese in contention
Monroe senior Mark Hoesly plays a ball at the net. Hoesly and Dan Becker at No. 3 doubles won their quarterfinal match over Waunakees Paul Wiesler and Alex Moss, 6-0, 6-0 on Friday at the Badger Conference tournament.
MADISON - It was mission accomplished for the Monroe boys tennis team on the first day of the Badger Conference tournament Friday.

The Cheesemakers had all four singles players and three doubles teams win quarterfinal matches Friday at the University of Wisconsin Nielsen Tennis Stadium to advance to the semifinals.

Monroe remains in contention for its first Badger South title since the Cheesemakers repeated as conference champions in 2002. For Monroe to win a share of the Badger South title, the Cheesemakers must win the conference tournament. Madison Edgewood and Verona have had a stranglehold on the Badger South, with either the Crusaders or Wildcats winning the championship the last six years.

Edgewood (6-0 Badger South) handed Monroe its only dual match loss (5-1) and Monroe coach Jim Bartholf knows the chance at a co-championship goes through the Crusaders.

"Nothing comes easy," Bartholf said after Monroe junior Eric Knudtson escaped to win a quarterfinal three set match over Oregon's Justin Helmkamp, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

"Somewhere along the line we will have to beat Edgewood," Bartholf said. "We are very close to Edgewood. It's possible."

Knudtson dug himself a hole falling behind 4-1 in the first set and he couldn't recover. He bounced back and won the second set and finished the match by winning the decisive third set.

After dropping the first set, Knudtson didn't panic.

"I thought there have been many times when I lost the first set this season," Knudtson said. "I just had to forget about it and come back and win the second and third sets. Once I got the momentum in the second set, I knew I could win the third."

Bartholf knows Knudtson's match was pivotal if the Cheesemakers wanted to stay in contention for a title.

"It's huge for our team," Bartholf said. "We can't afford to lose any matches we should win."

Monroe's singles players including senior Lauri Juonela, Carson Root, Matt Le and Knudtson and the Cheesemakers' doubles teams received first round byes.

Juonela, at No. 1 singles, breezed into the semifinals with a straight set win over Sauk Prairie's Joe Breunig, 6-0, 6-4.

Root at No. 2 singles defeated Milton senior Charles Newcomb, 6-1, 6-0. Le, a senior, won his No. 3 quarterfinal singles match over Fort Atkinson's Jacob Starkweather, 6-3, 6-2.

Bartholf didn't have to worry about his doubles teams. The No. 1 doubles team of seniors Jim Kundert and Artem Beer defeated the Sauk Prairie seniors Brian Nelson and Nolan Lendved, 6-0, 6-2.

The Cheesemakers' No. 2 doubles team of Pat Gellings and Garrett Tschanz defeated Stoughton's Mike Ringstad and Zack Opheim, 6-1, 6-3.

At No. 3 doubles, Monroe seniors Mark Hoesly and Dan Becker dominated their quarterfinal match by defeating Waunakee's Paul Wiesler and Alex Moss, 6-0, 6-0.

After losing a three set match in a 7-0 dual loss to Edgewood this year, Gellings and Tschanz are motivated about the chance for a rematch.

"I want to make it to the championship and play Edgewood," Gellings said.

Tschanz knows the Crusaders have an advantage when it comes to offseason training and getting ready for the season.

"They (Edgewood) have been able to play year round where in Monroe in the winter we don't have the indoor facility," Tschanz. "I would love to get a rematch against Edgewood."

Notes: Monroe's appearance in the Badger Conference tournament was delayed Friday after 10 first round matches went three sets. ... The Badger Conference tournament features a worldwide feel. Two of the top singles players vying for titles are frm Europe - Monroe senior Lauri Juonela is a Finnish exchange student and Monona Grove's Korbinian is a German exchange student. ... Did you know? Verona won the Badger South title last year. With conference realignment, Verona is now in the Big Eight and the conference championship has come down to Edgewood and Monroe. ... The last time the Cheesemakers had an individual conference champion was in 2001 when Mathew Norder won at No. 2 singles. Monroe also had two conference champion doubles teams including Brad Saugstad and Justin Haroldson at No. 1 singles and Dan Healy and Jon Cappel at No. 2 doubles.