Rock Ridge netters looking to make a mark on the court

Rock Ridge tennis players (l-r) Ryan Scherf, Jace Westerbur and Jared Delich will take part in the Class A Individual State Tennis Tournament beginning today in St. Cloud.

ST. CLOUD — Despite being knocked out of the team tournament, three Wolverines are set to make Rock Ridge history today as they compete at the Class A Individual State tennis tournament.

Representing Rock Ridge in singles will be the 7A champion in sophomore Jared Delich. In doubles, the senior duo and two-time section champions Ryan Scherf and Jace Westerbur will take another crack at the individual state tournament.

Making his first trip to the state tournament this year, Delich will open play today at 8 a.m. against CJ Velgersdyk from Southwest Christian High School. Winning the Section 7A singles title with ease, Delich said it was a great feeling to make it to his first individual state tournament.

“I just felt relieved as soon as I knew I had made it to state,” Delich siad. “Finally getting through that individual tournament and winning a section championship was a great experience. Winning with Rock Ridge as a team and then getting to represent Rock Ridge individually is making this whole season such a fun experience.”

With a long line of successful tennis players coming from his family, Delich says he’s been working at his game from a young age and attributes his success to his family and his coaches over the years.

“It’s taken a lot of practice to get to this point for sure. My dad has pushed me since I was young over and over again. And I’ve had great coaching along the way from Dean Edstrom at Eveleth now to Jeff Mauston this year. I’ve been very lucky to have such great coaches.”

Playing in his first state tournament, Mauston expects Delich may have an edge over other first timers when it comes to nerves and playing on the big stage.

“He’s the kind of kid that just gets it,” Mauston said. “He’s going to compete at the highest level and he won’t be overly nervous because he’s just someone that handles pressure so well. He can read his opponents and figure out their games. He’s been our top singles player all year so he’s seen every team’s best player as well.”

Alongside his mental game, Mauston says his character as a student-athlete is another big positive.

“His character is such a big benefit to him. You don’t have to worry about any negatives coming from him and that’s going to continue to make him very successful over the years. Other first timers could be very nervous heading down there but you’ll never see Jared looking nervous on the court. He just plays.”

Delich’s season has had some turbulence. The sophomore battled through a foot injury right in the middle of the season. Now fully recovered, it’s clear he’s playing his best tennis at the right time.

“I had to fight through that and it was iffy for a long time. I’m glad it got better and I’m able to compete at this level. Making it to state after recovering from an injury was tough but now I know I’m good to go and I’m ready to play.”

On his own expectations, Delich doesn’t want to put any pressure on himself and just hopes to extend his season for as long as possible.

“I want to set high expectations for myself but at this point I’m just excited to play more tennis and see how long I can keep my season going.”

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From the beginning of the season, it was clear Ryan Scherf and Jace Westerbur were the team to beat when it came to the Section 7A doubles tournament. The pair wasted no time in each match, dispatching each opposing duo with ease to win their second straight doubles title.

Back at state after making their first trip as a duo in 2019, the now-graduated Scherf and Westerbur will begin the individual doubles tournament today when they take on Foley’s Tanner Funk and Tanner Tschumper from Foley at 8 a.m. Their high school experience almost complete, the pair want to make their last high school event a memorable one.

“We want to go down there and play the best we can,” Scherf said of the individual tournament. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain doing this one more time so really it’s just about going down there and playing our best.”

Being able to make the trip down as seniors, Westerbur said it’s an even bigger incentive to play their hearts out.

“This being our last state tournament ever is just more motivation for us to play even better,” Westerbur said.” We work well under the pressure that state can bring so I think that helps us out a lot.”

Undefeated this year as doubles partners, the pair of seniors have proven just how strong their partnership on the court can be. When asked what makes their pairing work so well, the answer seemed clear and obvious to both of them.

“We’ve known each other for so long playing tennis and other sports together,” Scherf said. “We’ve seen each other at our highs and our lows. Being his doubles partner has been such a great experience. The communication has been great and it just gets better the longer we play together. Knowing where to go and when to switch just seems easy now. It’s a very cool partnership.”

This chemistry between us as partners has just been building for so long,” Westerbur said. “We grew up playing hockey and other sports together. Being friends off the court and spending all that time growing up together has just been a huge advantage for us over the years.”

Mauston knows Scherf and Westerbur have what it takes to make a deep run in the tournament. Win or lose, he hopes the pair makes it a tournament to remember.

“I hope they play well,” Mauston said. “If they play their best tennis, they’ll be a tough team to beat. If that’s not enough, you know the quality of opponents is even higher. I want them to have fun and just absorb every moment. From being little boys in the summer tennis program with my wife and I to playing at one last state tournament, hopefully they can look and reflect on everything when they’re done and have a smile on their face.

“I want them to play well, but more importantly I just want them to have a great time.”

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