1. Planting seeds
Last summer, the Minnesota State High School League approved a coaches association recommendation to seed teams and players in both classes of the state tournament. In past years, teams hadn’t been seeded in Class 1A; smaller public schols had feared that such a move would limit their chances for success against the private schools that have dominated the smaller class for two decades. Coaches seem to be largely in favor of the change. “Seeding is a very good thing in any class,” wrote Edina coach Steve Paulsen. Next up for the coaches association is ensuring fairness in seeding, addressing a growing concern that not all state tournament coaches are participating in the process. They recommended that seeding be taken out of the hands of coaches and given over to an advisory panel. That proposal is expected to be discussed at the league’s board meeting in October.
2. Edina: Favored, but not a given
As the Hornets seek a state-record 19th consecutive Class 2A team championship, there are questions about what it will take to beat them. The key to the Hornets’ run is quality depth. They lost Caitlyn Merzbacher, a two-time state singles champion, to graduation (she’s now at the University of Minnestoa, being coached by her father, Chuck) but return one of the state’s best singles players in sophomore Sophia Reddy. Having an elite player at No. 1 singles makes every other spot in the lineup that much stronger, and Edina has some very good players at other spots in the lineup, such as Margaux Boyer and doubles specialists Hannah Hankinson and Katie Engelking. Two other teams could pose a threat to Edina’s reign. One is Mahtomedi, which returns eight of its top 10 players from 2014, led by sophomore Olivia Paradise. The other, Prior Lake, boasts a formidable singles foursome of Savanna Crowell, Chloe Hall, Taylor Jackson and Grace Peterson.
3. Haakenstad’s time on hold
Chanhassen senior Hayley Haakenstad has spent the past two seasons as one of the state’s elite singles players, yet so far a Class 2A state championshpi has eluded her. She was upset in the section playoffs in 2013 and lost to Merzbacher, a close friend, in the 2014 finals. The athletic Haakenstad, one of the few top players in Class 2A to play another varsity sport (softball), has missed the first few weeks of the season with an injury. She is expected to return in plenty of time to make one final run at a singles title.