By Eric Erickson,
Sports analysis

Tremendous turnaround for tight tennis team

The turnaround of the Como Park boys’ tennis team can be attributed to two key components: a committed effort to improve and a tight bond.

There’s a positive correlation between the two. The more time the teammates trained together in the off-season, the stronger their relationships grew.

The results have been remarkable during the spring of 2024. The Cougars compiled an overall record of 8-5 to start the season. Compare that to the previous three seasons in which Como averaged two wins.

Head coach Kia Yang, a 2008 Como graduate and current math teacher, has inspired his players. Yang’s encouragement to play through the summer and take advantage of opportunities to play in the winter (through scholarships offered by the USTA) has ignited a love for the game.

Assistant coach Brandon Kuether and JV coach Elliot Hicks have also been critical in the development of young players.

Senior captain Daniel Klett and junior captain Nolan Rognerud explained that the coaching trio collaborates to reach each player, know them as a person and build confidence along with their skills.

“They go above and beyond,” Rognerud said. “Our coaches are unselfish, show good values on and off the court, and know how to motivate us and guide us in becoming better. As a team, we’ve got more energy this year and are really supportive of each other.”

Bringing energy to complement their improved skills has helped fuel team victories that previously were elusive. A St. Paul City Conference record of 4-1 (at Bugle press time) included a victory over perennial conference power Harding, which Como had not beaten since 2007.

“Beating Harding showed our hard work over the winter,” Klett said. “We were ready after a great pep talk, and we out-energized them to bring comfort and confidence to ourselves on their courts.”

Como’s lineup features versatile players. The team is fond of quoting Kuether’s mantra, “There are no singles players or doubles players. There are only tennis players.”

There are 23 tennis players in the program. The varsity roster includes seniors Klett, Anthony Landaverde Guillen and Keng Chang; juniors Rognerud, Vincent Anderson and Charlie Anderson; sophomore Po Soe; and freshmen Micah Treiber, John Murray, Mohammad Zaid Saha and Morgan Anderson.

“Our biggest strength is our depth,” said Coach Kia. “We don’t have one player who is head and shoulders above the rest. We have six players who are really close skill-wise. The team is also extremely close-knit.” Every player has a best friend on the team.”

“Kia has taught us how to work hard over the years, and Brandon has taught us how to appreciate the hard work we’ve put in,” Klett explained. “And we’re doing that. We love being together and enjoy practice, hanging out, playing any chance we get and now—winning more matches!”

Minnesota Vikings honor Schuna

Como senior lineman Denzel Schuna played four years of football for the Cougars, leaving a legacy of leadership and spirit. He was awarded the National Football Foundation’s Stacey Robinson Award—an honor bestowed upon only two players in the state of Minnesota.

Schuna received his trophy at the Minnesota Vikings’ TCO Performance Center on April 14 as part of the Minnesota Football Honors. The ceremony is scheduled to be televised on Bally Sports Network in August during the NFL pre-season.

Coach Kirby Scull said Schuna deserves to be honored at this level for the impact he’s made as a leader on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

“Denzel’s leadership skills and positive energy influenced everyone he came in contact with during games, outreach events and classroom activities,” Scull said.

Schuna plans to attend Tuskegee University in Alabama next fall, a renowned HBCU (Historically Black College and University). He plans to be an education major and become a high school teacher. 

Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park High School and a longtime coach of school and youth sports in St. Paul.

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