Laura Brown used to teach tennis lessons to youth players in Elk River. Youngest daughter Meagan also benefited from her tutelage. At age 2, she could hit balls over the net from close range.
“She always seemed like a natural,” Laura said. “When she was about 5, I would hit with her for maybe a half-hour and then she’d beg to stay out there. Pretty soon we were hitting for an hour.”
Brown still can’t get enough. A junior at Elk River, Brown recently climbed to No. 2 in the coaches poll. She placed third at the Class 2A state tournament last fall. Elks coach Randy Ronning said Brown “is good enough to win it all” and considers her and fellow juniors Bella Lambert of Minnetonka (No. 1) and Sophie Reddy of Edina (No. 3) to be in a class by themselves.
A victory against Coon Rapids last Tuesday ran Brown’s record to 18-1 this season. She has defeated two top-10 players in Taylor Tarrolly of St. Cloud Tech and Alexandra Kopiecki of Mounds View. After a loss to Lambert, Brown rolled to 14 consecutive victories, putting her at 101 for her varsity career.
“It’s going really well, and I think I have a good chance at state so I’m excited for that,” Brown said.
Two of Brown’s best matches owed to her dogged mind-set. She battled Lambert on Aug. 27 in a match featuring long rallies and lasting 2 hours, 15 minutes. She lost 6-2, 6-4 but took consolation in pushing Lambert. Two years ago, Brown lost to Lambert 6-2, 6-0 and last year fell 6-3, 6-3.
“It gave me a lot of confidence because I wasn’t expecting to do that well,” Brown said. “Our points were really long. It was just a good match. I really enjoyed it. I think we both played really well and it was fun.”
During the match Sept. 17 against Kopiecki — Brown’s third of the day at the Elk River Invitational — she complained of a dizzy spell and sat down. Retire? No way. Brown recovered and won the match in three sets.
Her resiliency didn’t surprise her mother. Laura Brown saw her daughter playing doubles in a U.S. Tennis Association event in Texas last July when Brown scrambled to save a ball, ran into a fence and injured her wrist. She played on, won the match and later discovered she had broken a bone in her wrist.
For all her competitiveness, however, Brown impresses the opposition with her class and grace.
“She is considerate and respectful on the court and never intentionally makes a bad call,” Ronning said. “Coaches come up to her all the time and tell her how much they admire her. She’s a kid that a coach can really be proud of.”
Reluctant to talk about her success, Brown opens up on the topic of her team’s potential. Last season the Elks fell in the Section 7 semifinals to Duluth East and the Greyhounds lost in the final to Princeton. This season, Elk River has defeated both teams.
“Our chances are really good to get to state,” Brown said.
At a recent team slumber party, Elks players created a goal poster that included winning a Northwest Suburban Conference title, defeating three teams in the top 10 and going to state.
They also borrowed a line they hear coaches repeat: Leave your heart on the court.
Brown knows no other way.
“I’ll see her after practice or other times working and fine-tuning her game,” Ronning said. “Most kids who are on the court that much burn out. Meagan never has.”