SARTELL -- Filippo Buffo added an exclamation point to one of the most successful weeks in the history of the Bemidji High School boys tennis program.
The BHS senior captured the Section 8AA individual singles title Thursday in Sartell, only 24 hours after the Lumberjacks clinched their first team section championship in more than 40 years.
“Whenever you come out as the top player in the section, that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment,” head coach Kyle Fodness said.
Buffo is the first Bemidji player to win an individual section title since 2009 when Sam Weaver and Ben Holter claimed the 8AA doubles crown.
Whether Buffo is the first Lumberjack to win a section singles title is unclear.
Former head coach Mark Fodness estimated in 2018 that it had been around 40 years since the last time a Bemidji singles player even qualified for state, as section champion or runner-up.
That year a different Buffo punched his ticket to state.
Nic Buffo, Filippo’s older brother, qualified as section runner-up in singles. Filippo followed in his brother’s footsteps this year by arriving in Bemidji as an exchange student from Italy.
The younger Buffo has compiled an unblemished 23-0 record this season that he’ll take into next week’s state individual tournament.
“The big thing that’s been great for him is he can let the game come to him,” Fodness said. “He has such a good all-around game that he can kind of pick and choose what will be most effective for him that day. …
“He has maybe a few different strategies at his disposal, kind of like a starting pitcher in baseball has a few pitches at his disposal. That’s kind of Filippo’s tennis game.”
Buffo, the North’s top seed, never dropped a set all day as he effortlessly swept through all three rounds.
The senior defeated Becker’s Troy Nuest 6-1, 6-0 in the quarterfinals before beating Brainerd’s Matthew Moraghan 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals. Buffo dispatched the South’s top seed, Zach Bengtson of Becker, in the final by a championship-crowning score of 6-2, 6-3.
In the doubles tournament, Michael Dickinson and Logan Jensen fell short of a state tournament berth but still came away with third-place medals.
The BHS duo, the North’s No. 2 seed, defeated Ben Nelson and Gavin Fenstad of St. Cloud Tech 6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals. The Jacks then lost a tight semifinal to South No. 1 seed Ryan Bengtson and Eli Scheideman of Becker 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5).
Dickinson and Jensen rebounded from a 6-3 loss in set one by winning 6-3 and 6-1 to take the third-place match over Brainerd’s Beck Barber and RJ Campbell.
The North’s top-seeded duo of Jacob Partington and Gannon Lueck from Alexandria won the section final over the Becker pair. Bemidji was deprived of a shot at state since no true second match was needed due to Becker previously defeating Dickinson and Jensen, which the two learned during the third-place match.
“Michael and Logan played harder after that,” Fodness said. “They just kept going and kept working. That really is a testament to them.”
Noah Johnson also represented Bemidji in the singles tournament Thursday. He was eliminated in the quarterfinals 7-6 (2), 6-4 by St. Cloud Tech’s Emilio Estevez.
Buffo will begin play at the Class AA state singles tournament on Thursday, June 10, at Prior Lake High School. The Lumberjacks will take part in the team tournament beginning Tuesday, June 8.
Buffo’s title has added an exclamation point to the team’s triumph Wednesday.
“It can be tough to come off that emotional high of a really great team win,” Fodness said. “Everybody on all of the courts competed as hard as they could and really played some good matches. They can all walk off the courts, no matter where they finished, with their heads held high.”