Girls’ tennis state championships come and go at Edina, one of the most successful high school athletic programs in the nation. With a remarkable current streak of 19 consecutive Class 2A team titles — and 34 overall — the program grows more legendary with each passing year.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1997 Edina team that started the run.
“I can’t believe it’s been that long already,” said coach Steve Paulsen, who took over the program in 1992. Edina won the last of 15 consecutive championships that year, then didn’t win another before embarking on its current streak.
“I don’t remember every thing about every team, but I remember certain things,” Paulsen said. “I do remember that in 1997, [five-time Class 2A singles champion] Anh Nguyen from Bloomington Jefferson had graduated. She was a super-dominant player and that gave us an opening.”
The 1997 Hornets featured three singles players — Jeanette Cluskey, Katherine Agustsson and Laura Rovick — ranked among the top five in the state. A fourth, Niki Armbrust, also was a top-10 player. All four had been tutored by Paulsen, then a tennis professional for the now-defunct Northwest Athletic Clubs, often getting up at 5 a.m. to hit together.
“Those four were all good friends, and they were willing to put in the work they needed,’’ Paulsen said. “I think they expected to win the championship that year.”
“We had a very strong lineup,” said Rovick, who owns a company that operates pedal pubs in San Diego. “I still remember the camaraderie and fun we had together: Team dinners and car washes and going to Bruegger’s Bagels. It’s crazy that it’s been that long.”
Rovick, a sophomore that year, and Agustsson, then a senior, went on to win the Class 2A doubles title that season. Agustsson, whose married name is Olson, said regaining the team title carried a special meaning since she had watched older sisters Maggie and Ali do it before her.
“If I hadn’t seen them win it, I never would have understood what it was like,” she said. “I wanted to experience that for myself.”
Agustsson played in college at West Virginia and is now a vice president of sales at CBS EcoMedia. But she counts her role in helping Edina get back on top as one of her proudest accomplishments.
“It brings a sense of pride that I got to be a part of something so incredible,” she said. “We had such a strong team and Steve is such a great coach. It makes me feel old talking about that team, but it’s such great memory, the fun and the excitement and the teamwork. It’s helped me in my own personal career.”
Cluskey, whose married name is Vickman, played No. 1 singles as a sophomore in 1997. She didn’t qualify for the individual state tournament that year but went on to win two Class 2A singles championships. She played collegiately at Minnesota and Richmond, later coached Blake to a Class 1A girls’ tennis championship and was inducted into the Edina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.
Now a marriage and family therapist, Vickman laughed when asked to recall that team.
“I still feel like I’m 18!” she said. “It’s so strange. When you’re young, you never think you’ll be on this side of things.”
Vickman expressed amazement that she had a key role in starting something that is still going strong.
“It’s one thing to start a streak and another to keep it going this long,’’ she said. “That’s a great testimony to Steve and the coaches and the players and their parents and fans. There’s such a great energy around Edina tennis.”
Despite her personal success as a player, Vickman said nothing compared to that first team title.
“I don’t see the others every day, but when we do see each other in social circles, we love each other. You can still feel that bond.”