Same stage, same opponent, same outcome for Blake tennis player Libby Rickeman.
Playing teammate Arlina Shen for the Class 1A singles championship for the second consecutive year, Rickeman defended her title with a 6-2, 6-4 victory Friday at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.
“I feel like we know each other’s games so well that it’s really hard to play each other,’’ said Rickeman, a senior who also defeated Shen in the section finals this year and last.
They play a lot in practice, too. It can be nicer playing a teammate in the final, said Shen, a freshman who fared a little better this time than she did in last year’s 6-1, 6-0 championship match.
“But sometimes it can get a little bit boring because I keep playing her over and over again,” said Shen as the girls smiled and laughed throughout a postmatch interview.
They started out Friday’s match with a long deuce game. Shen got an early break, but Rickeman got back on track with her array of approach shots. She said she likes to be aggressive and try to finish the points at the net.
“Arlina hit a lot of passing shots … so that made it harder,” Rickeman said.
Rickeman rolled to a 4-1 lead in the second set. Shen responded with a couple of breaks of serve to make it 4-4.
Shen’s explanation, said with a laugh: “She just made a bunch of more errors.”
Rickeman was quick to respond: “I didn’t feel like I did, though. You were playing well.”
Rickeman broke back and served out the match. In the final game, they rallied for 18 shots before Rickeman set up her second match point with a cross-court winner on the alley line.
This title caps a phenomenal high school tennis career for Rickeman. She has won seven state titles: Four team titles (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016), a 2A doubles title in 2014 and now the last two singles crowns. She plans to play tennis in college next year but is not committed anywhere yet.
Blake wins doubles, too
There were hugs all around for Blake, as juniors Lainey Axell and Sophie Skallerud won the 1A doubles crown 6-1, 6-3 over defending champs seniors Grace Zumwinkle and Lauren Kozikowski from Breck.