Seeing as how girls’ tennis has been playing matches for three weeks, and some teams have already played eight or nine dual meets, it’s obviously impossible to label this a season preview.
So let’s call this an overview, see where teams are right now, what story lines have developed and where girls’ tennis in the metro is headed.
All roads still lead though Edina
This year marks the 20th anniversary season of the 1997 Edina girls’ tennis team that won the first of its current streak of 19 consecutive Class 2A team championships. Even some of the players on that 1997 team find it difficult to believe that a generation has passed without any team being able to unseat the Hornets. “Sometimes, it’s hard to think that I was a part of it,” said Jeannette Cluskey Vickman, who played No. 1 singles as a sophomore that year. For a while, it appeared that Edina’s streak might be in serious jeopardy this season because of the extended absence of junior Sophia Reddy, who played No. 1 singles last year. The Hornets lost to St. Cloud Tech 4-3 in their opening match of the season. But Reddy has returned to the fold, strengthening the lineup and allowing longtime coach Steve Paulsen added flexibility. “I’m still tinkering with the lineups,” he said.
While it’s still Edina’s title to lose, some metro coaches think this is as tight a season as there has been in Class 2A for quite some time. “I think it’s really, really close, closer than it’s been,” said Prior Lake coach P.J. Priest. Prior Lake is one of the teams that has a legitimate chance to unseat Edina. The Lakers have finished as runner-up to Edina in each of the past two seasons and have a lineup led by Savanna Crowell and Taylor Jackson that is highly capable of making a serious run at the title. Mahtomedi is also in the mix despite the absence of No. 1 singles player Olivia Paradise (injured), and Eagan, Eastview and Minnetonka are all viable contenders. And that doesn’t include outside powers Rochester Mayo and St. Cloud Tech.
Class 1A: Blake’s back
Blake and Breck have won four of the past five small-school team titles, with Blake currently having a two-year hold on the trophy. The Bears are favored again and have won four of their first five matches, their only loss being a 4-3 decision to Class 2A Mahtomedi in the first dual of the season. The reason? Their top two players, senior Libby Rickeman and freshman Arlina Shen, finished 1-2 in the 2015 Class 1A singles tournament. And new head coach Mike Ach has the added bonus of an eligible Lainey Axell, a junior who sat out last year after transferring to Blake.