The Class 1A state girls' tennis tournament is set up for a rematch of last year's championship match.
For the eighth straight year Rochester Lourdes is favored to win the tournament, which begins Wednesday at the Nicollet Tennis Club in Minneapolis. The seven-time defending state champions beat the Staples-Motley Cardinals 7-0 last year to retain the title.
The Cardinals are back, and despite a younger team, face a side of the bracket they hope to exploit.
The Section 8 champion Cardinals face New London-Spicer of Section 3 at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Also in S-M's bracket is Melrose (Section 6) which will battle Foley (Section 5).
On the other side of the bracket, Lourdes (Section 1) faces St. James (Section 2) and Blake (Section 4) meets Virginia (Section 7).
Back for the Cardinals are Jacque Peterson at No. 1 singles. Emma Pipek, at No. 2 singles, played third singles last year. Kim Mosack played No. 4 singles last year and will most likely play No. 3 this week if she doesn't move to doubles.
Amanda DiGiovanni and Amy Freeman will make up the No. 1 doubles team. Both played on last year's team as did senior Bri Orth, who will once again play doubles.
"Singles is our strength," said Cardinals co-head coach Sarah Penfield. "We're very strong in singles. We may move some people around to counterattack the opponents. For the most part, because our singles are so strong, teams will move to match us. That's what Foley did in a dual match earlier this year."
Foley was the only team in the tournament the Cardinals faced in a dual meet during the season. S-M lost to the Falcons 6-1.
S-M did see Virginia and Blake in regular-season tournaments.
"Our goal all year has been to make the state tournament again," said Penfield. "Now that we are there, we will not be happy by just showing up. We want to be able to come home with a piece of hardware.
"We're not relieved just to make it."
The Cardinals were ranked seventh in the final coaches poll. Lourdes was No. 1 followed by Foley (2), Blake (3), Virginia (4) and St. James (8).
NL-S was not ranked in the final poll. The Cardinals don't know a lot about their first-round opponent but Penfield said NL-S beat Litchfield, which is always a strong team.
"They don't have any superstar, but they have depth and that will be a challenge for us from top to bottom," Penfield said.
Last year the Cardinals beat United South Central 5-2 in the quarterfinals. They defeated St. Paul Academy 5-2 in the semifinals before losing to Lourdes, which returns seven of the 13 players from last year's state championship team.
Peterson's first-round opponent is sophomore Danielle Hildebrandt of St. James. Pipek's first-round opponent is sixth-ranked and unbeaten Jackie Claypool of Duluth Marshall.
"If she could win the first round she could move into play on the second day," Penfield said of Pipek. "If you lose the first or second round you're done. It's a single-elimination tournament until the second day.
"Jacque got a good first-round draw. If she can get to the second round she'll play, more than likely, Alyssa Palen of Rochester Lourdes."
Palen is ranked second in the state.
Peterson lost in the first round of the doubles tournament last year. Pipek lost in the first round of the singles tournament last year.
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