It’s weathered, slightly frayed but still wearable in a casual manner. The magic, however, has worn off.
Edina girls’ tennis coach Steve Paulsen has donned the same old green golf sweatshirt for the team finals of the Class 2A state tournament for 20 consecutive years. Nineteen times, the Hornets emerged as state champions, a Minnesota record for consecutive titles that may never be broken.
He dug it out of storage before the state finals last week; at this stage, the sweatshirt sees daylight just once a year, spending the other 364 days in a plastic bin in the Paulsens’ basement.
“His wife makes sure to go and dig it out,” assistant coach Perry Forster said. “Some years, he’s been down there at 4, 5 in the morning trying to find it before match.”
Paulsen wore his lucky sweatshirt Wednesday when the Hornets’ amazing streak ended. They lost to Mahtomedi 4-3 in the semifinals, ending a run that began before any of the current Edina players had been born.
“I’m not surprised,” Paulsen said. “Mahtomedi deserved it. It was close and we had our chances, but we just got beat. We’ve always tried to win with class and it’s just as important that we go out and lose with class.”
Paulsen said that in some ways, he’s relieved that the streak is over.
“I can coach a little freely and play more players,” he said. “Sometimes, it felt like I had to do things because of the streak.”
The sweatshirt that had been a good-luck charm saw one more match, a victory over St. Cloud Tech for third place. Its time had passed.
“I know one good thing that’s going to come out of this,” Paulsen laughed, tugging at his sleeve. “I can retire this thing.”