By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
ST PETER —
Normally, when a team reaches the section level in just about any sport, the players have a tendency to tighten up a little bit.
That was hardly the case Monday when the Waseca Bluejays found themselves competing in the final rounds of the Section 2A girls team tennis tournament at Swanson Tennis Center. The Waseca players appeared loosey-goosey throughout the day and wound up winning a pair of one-sided victories to advance to their fourth-straight state tournament.
"Yeah, they're pretty loose," Waseca coach Kyle Collins said before the championship dual. "We've played all three teams that are here before and won all three matches by scores of 5-2 or better.
"That gives (the players) the confidence to go out and play loose. I don't think nerves will be a problem."
Collins turned out to be right. After defeating St. Peter 7-0 in the semifinals, the Bluejays turned around and knocked off Blue Earth Area by a 6-1 score. The Jays won all six of their matches in straight sets against the Bucs.
Senior Alicia Knoll, the team's No. 2 singles player, said the Jays entered the season with a bit of an attitude. They finished sixth in the state last year and returned five starters and seven letterwinners, but failed to make the preseason Class A rankings.
"It was disappointing to us but we used it as motivation," said Knoll, who defeated BEA's Lindsey Prokop 6-0, 6-1 in the championship dual. "We beat a couple of good teams in Rochester Lourdes (6-1) and Owatonna (4-3) early and we've never beaten both those teams in the same season before."
A short time later Waseca entered the rankings at No. 6. Then on Sept. 20th, the Jays knocked off third-ranked St. James 4-3. The key dual-meet wins, coupled with a 15-3 overall record, has propelled Waseca to the No. 3-ranking in Class A.
"We feel that's more like it, but we're not a team that's going to take anybody for granted," Knoll said. "We were a little over-confident at state last year and that's why we only finished sixth. We think we can do better."
Maddie Muotka was also a 6-0, 6-1 winner for the Jays against Blue Earth at No. 3 singles. Waseca also swept the doubles, winning all three matches in straight sets.
Blue Earth Area's victory came at fourth singles where Kaitlyn Olsen came from behind to defeat Anna Hoehn 5-7,, 6-1, 6-4
In the two semifinals duals, Blue Earth Area downed Jordan 4-3 and Waseca shut out St. Peter 7-0. The Bucs end their season with a 12-6 record.
The Jays begin team play in the state tournament on Oct. 23 in Minneapolis. The Section 2A Individual Tournament starts Thursday at Swanson Tennis Center.
Section 2A Team Championship
Waseca 7, Blue Earth Area 0
SINGLES: Abby Collins (W) vs. Karleigh Wolff 6-1, 6-0; 2--Alicia Knoll (W) def. Lindsey Prokop 6-0, 6-1; 3--Maddie Muotka (W) 6-0, 6-1; 4--Kaitlyn Olsen (BEA) def. Anna Hoehn 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.
DOUBLES: 1--Abby Hoehn & Shanly Nelson (W) def. Karli Olsen & Natali Fellows 7-5, 6-2; 2--Baily Krueger & Olivia McIntosh (W) def. Aeli Olson & Paige Darrington 6-1, 6-3; 3--Katie Tlusty & Maddie Knoll (W) def. Rebekah Krussow & Kari Viland 6-4, 6-1.