Taylor Jackson and Lindsey Henderson are mainstays on Prior Lake’s successful girls’ tennis program. Jackson for six years, and Henderson for four.
The senior co-captains would like nothing better than to conclude their careers by extending one streak and restarting another.
Prior Lake has made five consecutive Class 2A state tournament appearances, but had its five-year streak of South Suburban Conference titles come to an end last year.
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work over the years to get where we are,” Jackson said. “Losing to Eagan last year was tough, but good for us at the same time.
“We had to get better, and learned from it.”
The Lakers return 11 players from last year’s squad. All have appeared in at least two state tournaments.
“Almost everybody has played in the section and state meets, and knows what to expect,” said Henderson, who made her first state tournament appearance in doubles as a freshman.
“I was nervous my freshman year,” she said. “After that, I was able to relax and play my game.”
Henderson has been a member of a doubles team in her three state tournament trips. She could play some singles this season.
Jackson figures to hold down the top singles spot. She teamed up Savanna Crowell, who graduated, to win the doubles championship in the individual state tournament last season.
“That was exciting,” Jackson said. “Winning state was like no other experience. It was one of the best days of my life.”
Juniors Charlotte Bowles and Kathy Wu are also key cogs in the Lakers’ lineup. Bowles in all likelihood will bounce between singles and doubles while Wu will mainly be a singles player.
“Charlotte has tremendous experience playing singles and doubles,” Prior Lake coach PJ Priest said. “Kathy has won some clutch matches for the team in the past, and her experience in big time matches is going to be a great asset.”
Sophomore Nic Keller played in both the team and individual state tournament in doubles a year ago. She teamed with Bowles in the team portion and Henderson in the individual tournament.
Juniors Elizabeth Dolby and Madeline Roess and freshman Kelly Wu also saw action in the state tournament a year ago.
The Lakers have three other seniors they can lean on in Sydney Briggs, Claire Houle and Katherine Huntington.
“I’m very encouraged that we will have enough depth to compete with any team in the state,” Priest said.
The first order of business is trying to unseat Eagan as the conference champion. The Wildcats halted Prior Lake’s 50-match winning streak in the conference a year ago.
“Eagan has a tremendous team with one of, if not, the strongest top-three singles lineups in the state,” Priest said.
Eagan was the runner-up while Prior Lake finished fifth in the state tournament last year. The Lakers were second the previous two years.
“We are shooting to get that conference title back, but it won’t be easy,” Priest said. “Hopefully, our depth can bring back the conference title.”
No matter what happens in the conference race, it won’t deter the Lakers’ quest of another state tournament appearance.
“I’ve gone to state every year since being on the team,” Jackson said. “I don’t want it to end my senior year. The goal every season is to get to the state tournament.”