Sara Wennerstrand in two words: Consistently steady.
That quality, along with a strong forehand, helped propel the Brainerd Warriors junior to a 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) victory over St. Cloud Tech’s Katelyn Tarrolly Monday at Brainerd High School.
Wennerstrand’s win was the lone point for the Warriors, who fell to Tech 6-1 in a match of the top two Central Lakes Conference teams. Tech remained unbeaten in conference play at 6-0. Brainerd dropped to 4-2. The two teams will square off in the regular season finale for Brainerd. By that time Brooke Mimmack should be healthy.
The freshman doubles player was scratched from the lineup because of illness. Brainerd shuffled its roster to compensate. The moves surprised Brainerd head coach Ellen Fussy.
“I wasn’t unhappy with how the girls stepped in and played,” said Fussy. “Lauren (Rud) played her first varsity match at No. 4 singles. She didn’t know she was doing it and she came out and performed OK.
“The thing about the doubles was we threw some girls in that hadn’t practiced together before, but I was still pleased. Kristina Anderson at No. 3 doubles, her and Ashley did OK, and it wasn’t a bad lineup to use. Now we have some nice options we can use.”
Wennerstrand normally plays doubles and she thought that’s where she was going to be again until she found out No. 2 singles was her placement. There she faced Tarrolly, a seventh grader with a game like a fifth-year varsity veteran and a competitive edge to match.
“I was trying to build the points and then create an opportunity to finish the points or make her make the mistakes,” said Wennerstrand. “She had some very nice shots. She could put the ball away very well. It was tough, but I persevered.”
Wennerstrand handled the first set 6-3 and built a 5-3 edge in the second set before Tarrolly stormed back to force a tiebreaker. Wennerstrand, a varsity tennis and softball veteran didn’t get frustrated.
“I just needed to stay confident,” she said. “I knew I could win because I had done it in the first set. I knew perseverance and confidence would help me pull through.”
In the tiebreaker, Wennerstrand held a 4-2 edge before Tarrolly came back again. Then Wennerstrand pulled away for the win.
Despite not knowing she was going to play singles, Wennerstrand loved the opportunity to play someone as talented as Tarrolly.
“I knew she was going to be one of my toughest matches of the year,” said Wennerstrand. “I knew it was going to be a great match and it was fun.”
Katelyn Tarrolly’s older sister Taylor Tarrolly — an eighth grader — won a straight set match at No. 1 singles and Leah Wurm battled back from a 5-3 first set deficit to defeat Caitlin Steffen 7-5, 6-2 at No. 3 singles. Tech swept the doubles matches for the victory.
“Sara had a nice match,” said Fussy. “She strung together some really nice points. Caitlin Steffen battled hard at No. 3 singles and Megan Hintz, even though she came up on the short end, she hits some nice balls.
“I’m proud of the girls. Tech is loaded. They’re a good match for us and I think we can have a better showing next time.”
Tech 6, Warriors 1
No. 1: Taylor Tarrolly (Tech) def. Megan Hintz 6-1, 6-2
No. 2: Sara Wennerstrand (Brd) def. Katelyn Tarrolly 6-3, 7-6 (7-5)
No. 3: Leah Wurm (Tech) def. Caitlin Steffen 7-5, 6-2
No. 4: Katie Williams (Tech) def. Lauren Rud 6-0, 6-1
No. 1: Lexie Portz-Jill Kedrowski (Tech) def. Morgan Steffen-Natalie Comeau 7-5, 7-5
No. 2: Sam Eisenreich-Sabrina Strum (Tech) def. Rosemary Hunter-Chloe Glassman 7-5, 6-3
No. 3: Kaila Burroughs-Sarah Donelly (Tech) def. Ashley Fitterer-Kristina Anderson 6-2, 6-2