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) and Sviatoslavsky (18-1) led the young Edgewood team to its second state championship in the last three years after a 4-3 victory over University School of Milwaukee in the final match.
According to first-year Crusaders head coach Alex Mory, the Crusaders have big plans for this spring.
“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.”
Mory has every reason to maintain these high expectations. Edgewood has been a perennial power in Wisconsin tennis for years — they have qualified for state team tennis every year since 2004, and have made 10 appearances in in the championship match over that span.
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.
“Last year I was seeded at individual state, so I’m hoping to get another. A higher seed would be better,” Pfaff said. “(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.
In light of this performance, Mory has not yet decided whether Pfaff will remain the No. 1 singles player into 2019, or whether Sviatoslavsky will take up the mantle.
“Donovan and Alex are both fighting for the spot, and they’re both doing really well,” Mory said. “They’ve both been training a lot over the offseason.”
Regardless of who ends up taking over at No. 1, Edgewood is primed to continue its dominance of the area and capture what would be a 16th consecutive sectional title. In addition to Pfaff and Sviatoslavsky, the Crusaders return No. 3 singles player Christopher Boll, 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.”