The Eagan girls’ tennis team would like nothing better than to be like the boys’ program.
To do so, it must accomplish one feat that has been elusive to this point — having a banner displayed in the school. They are unveiled when a team from the District 196 school finishes first or second in the state tournament.
“This is the best team we’ve had since I’ve been on the varsity,” senior Kjorte Harra said. “We have a lot of confidence.”
The boys’ program accomplished the goal in 2010, finishing as the Class 2A state tournament runner-up to Eden Prairie. That same year marked the last state tournament appearance by the girls’ team.
“It’s all about timing, and tends to go in cycles,” said Eagan’s Scott Nichols, who coaches both teams. “A lot of it depends on matchups, who and when you get them.”
Nichols feels he has the deepest girls’ squad since taking over the program in 2000. Nine players return with varsity experience from a 17-7 squad last year.
“We have good senior leadership,” Nichols said. “Our three captains provide great leadership on and off the court. This team has a family feel to it.”
Team captains are Anusha Arcalgud, Lindsey Harford and Harra. Two other seniors on the roster are Gina Hall and Megan Anderson.
Sophomore Samantha Nichols, Scott’s daughter, holds down the top singles spot for the Wildcats. She is ranked seventh in the state among individuals.
Freshman Lauren Ferg holds the No. 2 singles spot and freshman Eesha Varma is in the third singles position.
“We’re more intimidating on the court this year,” Harra said. “We expect to win.”
The seniors usually comprise the top doubles teams along with juniors Chloe Asuncion and Raechel Murray.
“Doubles coach Mel Smith is our guru,” Scott Nichols said. “I’m lucky to have him as an assistant coach. If our depth and talent holds up, I feel we can beat anybody.”
The No. 6-ranked Wildcats, according to the coaches association poll, already have a good idea where they stand among the state’s best.
They dropped a 4-3 decision to No. 2 Mahtomedi and rolled to a 7-0 triumph over seventh-ranked Eastview.
“The Eastview match was by far the best we’ve played this year,” Scott Nichols said. “For us to sweep singles and have our doubles teams play that well was awesome. It was a lot of fun.”
The Wildcats will get another stern test Tuesday when they travel to No. 3 Prior Lake.
“Prior Lake is really strong,” Scott Nichols said. “They are the team to beat in the [South Suburban] conference.”
The Lakers have won the Section 3 championship the past three years. That won’t be the case this season as they have been moved to Section 2.
“I think this is the year we make a run for it,” Harra said. “I’m very optimistic.”