Elk River is a school Brainerd fans will see much of during postseason action, but for the Warrior girls' tennis team it will be a first.
It's one of many firsts for the Warriors, who will face the Elks in the Class 2A state quarterfinals at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota.
Brainerd Warriors head coach Ellen Fussy (top, middle) talked with her girls' tennis team in preparation for Tuesday's Class 2A state tournament. Brainerd will play Elk River in the quarterfinals at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Brainerd is making its first state trip. Elk River, ranked fourth in the final coaches' poll, returns to state after finishing fifth last season.
"I talked to the Monticello coach and he told me they have very strong No. 1 and No. 2 singles players and strong No. 1 and No. 2 doubles," said Warriors head coach Ellen Fussy.
State girls' tennis tournament
When: Oct. 27-30
Where: Class 2A: Baseline Tennis Center, Minneapolis; Class 1A: Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center, Minneapolis
Teams: Class 2A: Brainerd Warriors, Class 1A: Staples-Motley Cardinals
Individuals: Class 2A doubles: Taylor Headlee-Zoe Houle (Brd); Class 1A singles: Abby Edin (S-M); Class 1A doubles: Skye Coughlin-Emma Koskiniemi (S-M); Allie Carlson-Kaitlyn Davies (Aitkin)
The Elks' Cassandra Brown and Katie Jesperson both advanced to the state singles tournament. Jesperson was ranked sixth in the final individual poll, Brown received honorable mention.
Elk River's doubles team of Michaela Schulz and Leah Koehler will play in the state doubles tournament.
The only loss suffered by Elk River was against Edina, which is going for its 13th straight state title. The Elks enter Tuesday's meet with a 22-1 record.
The Warriors enter their first state tournament with a 14-1 overall mark. Their lone loss was against Central Lakes Conference foe St. Cloud Tech.
"Our team is playing the best tennis we have all season," said Fussy. "Down the stretch that's what you expect them to do. It's a really good matchup for us if we play like we did last week against Monticello and Bemidji.
"I want the girls focused and I want them to remember they've hit 1,000 serves and 1,000 volleys and ground strokes. There is no reason why they should think anyone else is better than them. They need to stay focused and play confident."
Brainerd's lineup will be led off by senior Taylor Headlee at No. 1 singles. Headlee finished with a 16-7 dual-meet singles record through sections. Mikinzee Salo will take her 22-2 record to the No. 2 singles spot followed by Briana Rademacher (20-3) at No. 3 and Mackayla Headlee (16-7) at No. 4 singles.
The doubles lineup will be Zoe Houle-Kayla Kraemer at No. 1. That duo owns a 19-4 record. Sam Kletscher-Courtney Tusler will be at No. 2 and own a 21-1 mark. Kathryn Southard-Kathryn Chandler will play No. 3 doubles.
Brainerd's alternates will be Kylee Kundee and Jinna Toft.
"This is a huge step for Brainerd tennis," Fussy said. "Hopefully, this shows the girls what they did in the offseason has helped them. They worked hard this offseason and it really paid off. It's a privilege to be one of 16 teams still playing."
Another one of those teams is the Staples-Motley Cardinals, who are competing in their fifth-straight 1A team tournament and eighth in 10 years.
The Cardinals, ranked third in the final 1A coaches' poll, will battle defending champion Rochester Lourdes at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center. Rochester is ranked fourth.
"The girls who have had state experience set some high expectations," said S-M head coach Kevin Coughlin. "They know what they're capable of in relation to their competition. Everyone has their own vision, if you will. All we have control of is our own. We prepare ourselves while still being conscious of the other side. We like to believe we can get it done."
S-M finished fourth last season and enters this year with a 9-5 record according to the Minnesota State High School League Web site. The Cardinals' losses were to Mounds View, St. Joseph Academy, Lake Forest Academy, Moorhead and St. Cloud Tech.
"We finally got some momentum to end the regular season and through sections," said Coughlin. "We played our schedule not with our strongest lineups so we haven't put up the best scores. That doesn't matter to me. I like to say we have confident momentum."
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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