Mayo boys tennis team rightfully thinking big all over again

May 4—ROCHESTER — One year ago, Mayo met No. 1-ranked Wayzata in the final of the Class 2A state boys tennis tournament. The Spartans put up a considerable battle, but lost 5-2.

Current senior Daniel Meunier was on that team, just as he's been on the last four Mayo varsity editions. Meunier says he was like everybody else on that state runner-up team, disappointed but not devastated that they lost.

But the non-seniors were all one thing as they bid goodbye to that 2023 season — motivated.

"Nobody likes losing, but we weren't distraught after losing to Wayzata because they'd also beaten us earlier that season," said Meunier, who plays No. 1 doubles for the Spartans. "We felt really good to have been in the finals. But we were motivated by that loss and we went to work."

The "work" kicked in pretty much the day after that championship dual was done and for so many on this team, never stopped leading up to this season. So many ramped up their tennis lessons and tossed in a bunch of USTA and UTR non-high school affiliated tournaments.

Now, here they are, a little-tested 9-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state. Wayzata, once again, is No. 1.

Longtime Mayo coach Jeff Demaray sure likes what he sees. Mayo lost four key players to graduation from that state runner-up team. But thanks to all of that off-season work, they might be even better than a year ago.

They'll have a much better feel for that in the next 10 days. Their schedule goes from not-so-challenging to extremely daunting, particularly as they host the powerhouse Mayo Invitational today (12:30 p.m.). Included in that meet are No. 2-ranked Mayo, No. 4 Mahtomedi, No. 6 Mounds View, No. 7 Orono and No. 9 Eagan.

On Monday, the Spartans will travel to take on No. 1 Wayzata.

"We've not really been tested this year," said Demaray, whose team has won all nine of its duals by 7-0 scores. "But our guys are itching to get in some good matches now. They've put in a lot of time during the off-season to prepare themselves for these opportunities. We now have to take it one match at a time. But our ultimate goal is a state team championship."

Looking at Mayo's lineup and its individual progress, meeting that lofty goal is not at all out of the question.

Meunier has seen all of the advancements being made by his teammates. One particularly stands out to him. That is senior Blake Thackeray. He was barely out of the Mayo varsity lineup last year. But this season, after making a considerable climb with his game, he's been as high as No. 3 in its singles lineup.

Meunier says that the big promotion was well earned. Demaray agrees, calling Thackeray his team's most improved player.

"Blake put in a whole bunch of work in the offseason and has now made a huge jump," Meunier said. "It's just been his general improvement everywhere. But his serve really stands out. He almost never misses a serve."

Meunier has spent four years craving spring. There's a simple explanation for that. Spring is when Mayo's tennis season happens.

A team captain and an ultimate leader, according to Demaray, Meunier has been grateful for every minute he's spent in this Mayo tennis program. This is his happiest place and time, being with a bunch of guys he's grown up playing tennis with and running around with the school name Mayo showing on his tennis shirts.

He's in no hurry to see it come to an end. These final six weeks will be cherished.

"It's a special program," Meunier said. "I like representing our school and our city. Everyone on this team behaves themselves. And we all have the same goal. It's to keep getting better, get to the state tournament and win it when we get there. We've all set our minds for that goal."