A year after earning the WIAA Division 2 state championship, Madison Edgewood sophomores Alex Sviatoslavsky and Donovan Pfaff are dead set on keeping the Crusaders at the top this spring.
In 2018, as freshmen playing the top two singles spots for the Crusaders, Pfaff (14-4 last year) and Sviatoslavsky (18-1 last year) led the young Edgewood team to its second state championship in the last three years, capped by a 4-3 victory over University School of Milwaukee in the final match.
First-year Crusaders coach Alex Mory had big plans entering the season, and the two have led a crew which hasn't disappointed.
“We’re setting our goals very high this year. We’re hoping to win team state again this year,” Mory said. “We’d like to win (the Badger South) conference again, repeat there, and we’d like to get as many individual state qualifiers as we can at individual state.”
The Badger Conference tournament will take place Friday and Saturday at Nielsen Tennis Stadium, giving the Crusaders a chance to avenge a 4-3 dual-meet loss to Monona Grove that helped the Silver Eagles win the league dual-meet title at 7-0.
Edgewood went 6-1 in the conference and is 11-8 overall, thanks to a schedule packed with state powers such as Verona, Middleton, University School of Milwaukee, Brookfield Academy and Kohler.
Edgewood has been a perennial power in Wisconsin tennis for years, qualifying qualified for team state every year since 2004 and making 10 appearances in in the championship match over that span. The Crusaders' run of consecutive sectional titles stands at 15.
The Crusaders return six of the 10 players from last year’s championship roster — including Sviatoslavsky and Pfaff, who were the only freshmen seeded among the top eight at the individual state tournament.
They hold the same goals and expectations as their coach — and have made them pay off. Sviatlovsky is 15-4 so far at No. 1 singles, and Pfaff is 19-0 at No. 3, with senior Christopher Ball building a 16-1 record at No. 2 singles.
“Last year I was seeded at individual state, so I’m hoping to get another," Pfaff said. "A higher seed would be better. (And) I’m hoping to work my hardest and help my team make it to team state.”
“I expect a lot,” Sviatoslavsky said. “I’m hoping to get far at individual state, hoping we can repeat at team state.”
The sophomores have competed against one another since the beginning of their competitive careers, starting at age 10. Now, their competition continues, even on the same team.
Pfaff was the No. 1 singles player throughout the Crusaders’ postseason run last season. Sviatoslavsky went undefeated during the regular season at No. 2 singles, not losing until a 2-6, 1-6 loss to top-seeded Kohler senior Casey Johnson in the quarterfinals.
Pfaff lost to Johnson a second time, 3-6, 1-6, in Edgewood’s team state semifinal victory over the Blue Bombers.
This year, Pfaff has built a perfect record in the No. 3 spot, and Sviatlovsky and Boll have been dependable performers in the top two spots."
“They’re both doing really well,” Mory said. “They’ve both been training a lot over the offseason.”
Edgewood is primed to continue its dominance of the area and capture what would be a 16th consecutive sectional title. In addition to Sviatoslavsky, Boll and Pfaff, the Crusaders return sophomore doubles player Chase Korb and senior doubles player Gavin Maloney.
To Svaitoslavsky, the team aspect is vitally important to his enjoyment of the sport. Before he started high school, and even now, in the offseason, a singles player doesn’t get much chance to feel like part of a team atmosphere. Sviatoslavsky values the idea of having a team behind him.
“Certainly, the best part of playing in high school is the team atmosphere,” Sviatoslavsky said. “It’s good to be playing for someone other than yourself.”