The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 16, 2012

St. James qualifies 5 of 6 to state

By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor

ST PETER — With apologies to some guy named Dickens, Tuesday’s Section 3A girls tennis tournament doubles finals was the best of matches and the worst of matches for St. James.

The match pitted two doubles teams from St. James against each other. The Saints’ No. 1 tandem of Michaela Nordby and Acacia Foss took on teammates Meghan Lahti and Michaela Nelson.

It was, to say the least, a nerve-wracking match for all four players.

“It’s so hard to play against your opponents in a tournament like this,” Lahti said. “You want to win but you don’t want to hurt the feelings of your teammates.

Nelson agreed: “It’s a lot more difficult than playing somebody else. You just kind of have to block it out of your mind and play your own game.”

Nelson and Lahti took the first set 7-5 before Nordby and Foss rebounded to win the second 6-3. The third set went to Lahti and Nelson who rolled to a 6-1 win and the Section 3A title. Nordby and Foss will join them at state as the section runners-up.

“This was one of those matches where strategy wasn’t going to do you much good,” Nelson said. “They know all our weaknesses and we know all of theirs. We just had to go out and focus and try to play our best tennis.”

The two St. James doubles teams will be joined at state by No. 1 singles player Aryn Eckstrom. The senior had a dominating tournament, winning all four matches in straight sets while losing just three games total.

In her semifinal match Tuesday, Eckstrom downed Abby Schmidt of Redwood Valley 6-1, 6-1. In the championship match she defeated Kaitlin Wohnoutka of Luverne 6-1, 6-0.

“They were good players so I knew I had to play well,” Eckstrom said. “I had played them both before and won so I may have had a little psychological advantage.”

The Saints other singles entrant, junior Lorena Hernandez, played well Tuesday but had to settle for fourth place. She lost a close 6-4, 7-5 semifinal match to Wohnoutka and then dropped a 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 decision to Redwood Valley’s Abby Schmidt in the third-place match.

St. James begins play in the Class A state team tournament Tuesday. The individual singles and doubles tournament begins Thursday. All matches will be played at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.