The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 29, 2013

East junior hitting his stride in boys tennis

Mason Bultje is 8-0 so far this season

By Jim Rueda
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO —

He’s taller, he’s stronger and ... well ... he’s just plain better.

Mankato East junior Mason Bultje is turning some heads in the Big Nine Conference this season as one of the top singles players in southern Minnesota. He has built an 8-0 record, including victories against Big Nine standouts Jason Howard of Rochester John Marshall and Michael Poeschla of Rochester Mayo.

Bultje’s latest victim was Alex King of New Ulm. He defeated the nonconference foe 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 singles to lead East/Loyola to a 5-2 victory at the East courts. Bultje said he has set his sights pretty high for this season.

“I’m going to try to win the Big Nine this year,” Bultje said. “I’ve beaten two of the top three guys in the conference already and I’ll play another good one (in Nathan Huber) from St. Peter later on, too. Those are all good measuring sticks for me.”

Beyond the Big Nine, Bultje aims to end his season up in the metro area.

“I’d like to win the section and go to state,” he said. “I’m mentally tougher than I was last season. All those lessons I learned starting as a seventh-grader and an eighth-grader are starting to pay off.

“Now when I get into a tough situation I believe I can win. If I need a break I believe I can get it; if I need to win a big point I believe I can do it. I just have a lot more confidence.”

East/Loyola head coach Paul Williams said Bultje has a right to be playing with confidence.

“He’s beaten some pretty good players,” Williams said. “You can see he’s just a better player this year than he was a year ago.

“Bill Leitch from West is going to give him a good match and, if he gets deep into the section meet he’ll probably see the two kids from Shakopee and Minnetonka. They’re both good players, too.”

On Monday, Bultje’s teammates in singles were also pretty dominant. Dominic Cannella was a 6-3, 6-1 winner at the No. 2 spot, Chris Liu won 6-1, 6-1 at No. 3 and Kameron Saiki won 6-0. 6-1 at No. 4.

In doubles action, East’s lone win came from the No. 3 tandem of Cody Shetka and Ahmed Sugulle. They won 6-0. 6-1.
The closest match of the meet came at second doubles where New Ulm’s Sam Fredrickson and Billy Griffith outlasted Brandon Slonicker and Liban Hassan 2-6, 7-6, 11-9.

At first doubles, New Ulm’s Isaiah Johnson and Nick Gartner downed Griffin Bib and Brendan Loayza 6-3, 6-4.

The win improves East/Loyola’s record to 5-3 overall. The Cougars are 2-3 in the Big Nine.
East/Loyola hosts Owatonna at 4:30 p.m. today.