Edina and the state tennis tournament are like pasta with sauce: One without the other just feels wrong.
That’s why the Hornets’ seven-year drought of boys’ tennis state championships is somewhat off-putting. While the girls’ tennis team is in the midst of a historic run — 19 consecutive Class 2A team championships — the boys’ team is in its longest stretch without a state title since first winning a championship in 1959.
That could end this year. With a senior-heavy lineup that is as healthy as it’s been all season, the Hornets feel they can get back to the lofty perch atop the boys’ tennis world they’ve occupied so frequently.
“It’s wide open this year,” Edina coach Gary Aasen said. “We’ve played pretty well overall. We’ve had normal ups and downs, but in the sections we played really well.”
Edina cruised through the Section 6 tournament, ousting Benilde-St. Margaret’s 7-0 in the semifinals and Eastview 5-2 in the finals.
For a program as slathered in titles as Edina — 24 state team championships if you include the three by Edina East and one by Edina West in the 1970s and early ’80s — winning the section should be just another intersection to be crossed. But before last year, Edina had gone five consecutive seasons without a state tournament appearance. That’s like Duke going a half decade without being part of March Madness.
“When we finally did it last year, it was such a high. We were happy just to be there,” said senior Mike O’Neil, the Hornets’ No. 1 singles player. “This year, though, we’re not satisfied with just being there. We have expectations. Winning that section championship [over Eastview] felt more businesslike.”
Before clearing that hurdle, Edina traversed one of the state’s toughest schedules this season. In addition to navigating the usual Lake Conference gauntlet, the Hornets chalked up victories over Mahtomedi (twice), Maple Grove, Lakeville South, Cretin-Derham Hall and Breck, considered the favorite in Class 1A after having ousted three-time champion Blake.
They took a few losses, too, to Eden Prairie, Minnetonka (with whom they split a pair of matches), Blake and East Ridge. The latter three came during a two-week stretch when No. 2-singles player John Webb was out because of an injury.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Aasen said. “But this year has been so different because we came in knowing we’d done it before. It almost felt like we were waiting for the regular season to be over.”
The biggest reason for Edina’s resurgence, Aasen said, is their phalanx of seniors. Seven of them make up the top 10 positions in the lineup.
“That’s been everything for us,” he said. “They’re able to come through when we need them.”
There’s still a long way to go before Edina can claim its 25th championship. The Class 2A field in the tournament has no real favorite.
“There are no pushovers,” Aasen said. “Minnetonka is very good, Wayzata is very good. East Ridge. Mounds View can be tough depending on which lineup they play. And Rochester Century is a real X-factor. It’s going to come down to one thing, like seniors carrying the day.”
Which, of course, falls right into Edina’s wheelhouse.
Senior Jordan Schenck said the upcoming state tournament appearance is exactly what he and his teammates envisioned in the offseason.
“After last year, we all sat down and talked about what we needed to do in the offseason to come back and go deep into the tournament,” he said. “We set a high standard, held each other accountable and blacked out the five-letter word ‘state.’ We didn’t talk about it until the section final. It’s been a special season.”