Minnetonka junior Isabella Lambert sailed a shot wide to go down an early break in her quarterfinal match. She promptly took her long blonde ponytail and braided it at the first changeover.
“Sometimes it just gets caught in my racquet or under my arm or in my face,” Lambert said. “It just bothered me.”
It didn’t seem to get in the way after that. The No. 2 seed served well and capitalized on long rallies — a couple of points going 34 and 32 strokes — to defeat Duluth East eighth-grader Aili Hietala 6-2, 6-3, in the Class 2A girls’ tennis quarterfinals Thursday at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center.
“I knew I just had to really kind of grind and not get impatient,” Lambert said. “I needed to just stay mentally tough.”
Net points aren’t typically part of her game, but her volleys and passing shots served her well.
Last year’s runner-up, Lambert is looking to get back to the championship and come away with the state title. She’ll face St. Paul Central senior Zoe Klass-Warch in the semifinals Friday morning. Klass-Warch had the only upset in the 2A singles bracket, defeating No. 3 seed Natalie Lorentz, a St. Louis Park senior, 7-5, 6-2, in the quarterfinals.
“I just need to stay patient and hit the ball deep,” Lambert said.
No. 4-seeded Elk River junior Meagan Brown also moved on to the semifinals. She needed three sets for her first match, 6-1, 6-7 (1), 6-1, but won her quarterfinal 6-3, 6-2, over Eagan junior Samantha Nichols. Brown’s coach, Randy Ronning, liked that she was moving well and hitting the ball well.
Some of the points were incredible, the way Brown and Nichols drove each other to the corners with their hard shots, Ronning said.
“It wasn’t patty-cake tennis by any means,” Ronning said.
He added that she hit enough winners to beat her opponents Thursday.
“I was just being consistent,” Brown said. “Playing like I normally do.”
Brown will meet top-seeded Sophia Reddy, the Edina junior, who coasted into the semifinals with a tidy 6-0, 6-0, victory over senior Evann Welty from Mound Westonka. Reddy and Brown were supposed to meet in last year’s third-place match, but Brown defaulted with an injury.
All four Class 1A seeds in the singles bracket advanced, including Blake senior and defending champ Libby Rickeman.
All semifinal singles matches will be at 8 a.m. Friday, with the championships at 11:30 a.m. Class 2A will remain at Baseline and Class 1A at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.