The streak, written about dozens of times and almost larger than life, is over.
Edina had won 19 consecutive girls’ tennis team titles. Begun before any of the team’s current players were born, it was the longest run of championships in state tournament history and had become the defining characteristic of the Edina program.
Since 1997, 57 teams had tried to defeat the Hornets in state tournament play. And 57 times, Edina prevailed, taking home a new Class 2A team trophy.
The bid for trophy No. 20 started Tuesday with similar expectations and a 6-1 quarterfinal victory over Delano at Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota.
Next up Wednesday morning: Mahtomedi, a team the Hornets had defeated earlier in the season by a 4-3 score. Missing from that match, however, was the Zephyrs’ No. 1 singles player Olivia Paradise, who was out for much of the season battling nerve issues in her arms.
“Having Olivia back on the team, and Anna Stutz, who was also injured during the season, made all the difference in the world,” said Kathy Alex, Mahtomedi’s first-year coach. “It made us deeper.”
The Zephyrs, the tournament’s fifth seed in a strong field, got victories at No. 3 and No. 4 singles from senior Maggie Riermann and Stutz, a junior, as well as victories at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles. When the clinching doubles match ended, Mahtomedi, with a 4-3 victory, had done what 58 consecutive teams before it could not do.
“They’ve been preparing for this for seven years,” Alex said of her players. “I’m just fortunate to walk into a situation with such an experienced team. I knew we had the talent, I knew we had the experience to win this.”
Edina had won 15 consecutive state titles from 1978 through 1992, the year Steve Paulsen took over as head coach. The Hornets started their recent streak in 1997. The last team other than the Edina to win the Class 2A title was Bloomington Jefferson in 1996.
Hornets coach Steve Paulsen said Wednesday’s match “kind of went as we expected. There were a couple of toss-ups that didn’t go our way.
“I’ve been through this before,” he laughed, recalling the last time Edina had been defeated in the state tournament. “Yes, they’re very disappointed, but the kids will be fine. The sun will come up tomorrow. Now we have to go out and give it our best in the third-place match. I’ve always said that we’ve won a lot and winning is easy. But to lose and lose with class and character and integrity, that’s a part of it, too.”
Senior team captain Isabelle Ouyang echoed her coach.
“We’re used to the pressure. We’ve dealt with it the entire time we’ve played here,’’ she said. “Mahtomedi played very well. It is disappointing, but we’ll come back and play Edina tennis and try to represent the program with class.”