Blaine senior Mary Liz Swanson immersed herself in tennis throughout the summer, honing her game through tournaments while taking time to teach young players.

Swanson got an instructor job through her private coach at the Golden Valley Country Club, working with groups of 4- to 6-year-olds and 8- to 11-year-olds.

"A lot of it was just making it fun," Swanson said. "As the summer progressed you could see the older group becoming pretty good little tennis players."

Swanson has seen a similar progression in her own game. Blaine's No. 1 singles player since eighth grade, Swanson reached the Class 2A state tournament singles draw the past two years. She won two matches and placed fourth as a sophomore. But last fall she struggled to an 0-2 finish.

Swanson spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about redeeming last season's state tournament performance through a great summer of tennis.

Q How was the summer? How are you feeling about your game right now?

A Really good, actually. I've been training harder this summer than I ever have before. And competing in national tournaments helped. I just feel really ready going into this season, more so than any other year that I've played.

Q Where did those national tournaments take you and how did you fare?

A I went to California. I had one tournament in Claremont and one in San Diego. I did OK. I didn't get many wins or anything because the girls I played there were really tough.

Q Sounds like a good way to build experience, though.

A Yeah, which I think is another great thing going into this season. Having come off just playing some of the best girls in the country, I can take that into my high school matches.

Q Does the disappointment of going 0-2 at state last year drive you?

A It definitely is something I haven't been able to forget about. It was obviously really disappointing after taking fourth the year before. I guess I just really want to redeem myself this year and get back in that top four.

Q [Blaine] Coach [Jeff Fedor] said you had a much tougher draw last year. Do you look at that or do you prefer to say, 'Hey, I need to play better no matter what.'

A I'm not going to worry about my draw too much because to win a state title you're going to have to play the best players no matter what. Whether it's in the final or the first round, I have to be ready for it.

Q Coach thought you might have put a little more pressure on yourself to succeed. Is that how you see it?

A Yeah, my sophomore year going to state was a new experience and I was just happy to be there. Last year I wanted to have the same results.

Q When your game is on, what do you do well?

A When I feel good about my game, I'm usually serving really well. I just get the feeling that I can't miss and that no matter what type of shot I go for or how hard I hit it, it's going to go in.