By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
St. James senior Aryn Eckstrom will close out her high school tennis career at the Class A State Tournament this week and will leave a pretty impressive legacy.
In five years as a varsity player Eckstrom has never lost a South Central Conference match. That mark includes regular-season dual meets and the season-ending SCC Tournaments.
Heading into today’s state tourney she has a career singles record of 102-15 and a career doubles mark of 15-0. She is currently ranked seventh in the state in Class A singles with a season record of 25-2.
“Aryn is one of the most polite, courteous and respectful athletes I’ve ever been around,” St. James coach Les Zellmann said. “But she’s extremely competitive when you get her on the court. She has no problem finding a weakness and putting away matches.”
Eckstrom is one of those tennis rats who virtually grew up on a tennis court. Her oldest sister, Amber, and second-oldest sister Ashley, both played in the St. James program.
“I got dragged around to a lot of tennis meets when I was growing up, but I didn’t really mind it,” Aryn said. “ I’ve loved tennis for as long as I can remember. It’s never been a chore or a burden for me.”
Aryn also has a younger sister, Aubrey, who is a freshman in the St. James program. She tries to help Aubrey by giving her tips but also wants to let her develop into her own player.
“I was hoping that my senior year would be Aubrey’s first year on varsity and I’m glad it worked out that way. We can always say we played together on the same team.”
Aryn and the Saints go into the state tournament as the fourth-ranked team in the state. They are matched up against 12th-rated Rochester Lourdes in today’s opening 2 p.m. meet and then will take on either 13th-ranked Annandale or unranked Virginia in the second round.
Waseca opens state tournament play today with a 15-3 dual-meet record. The third-ranked Bluejays meet sixth-rated Osakis in an 8 a.m. dual and is then is on a collision course with top-ranked Blake in the Class A semifinals on Wednesday.
Waseca boasts a balanced team that has relied on its depth to defeat many of its opponents. Senior Abby Collins is 11-12 at first singles, followed by senior Alicia Knoll (16-1) at second singles, sophomore Maddie Muotka (19-1) at third singles and freshman Anna Hoehn (12-9) at fourth singles.
The top doubles team of Abbe Hoehn and Shanly Nelson is 20-2, the second duo of Olivia MacIntosh and Bailey Krueger is 20-2 and the third tandem of Maddy Knoll and Katie Tlusty is 20-3.
Singles & doubles
The individual tournament begins Thursday and includes three area singles players as well as three area doubles teams.
The singles players are St. Peter’s Calleigh Carlson, St. James’ Eckstrom and United South Central’s Claire Christian.
The doubles teams are Michaela Nordby and Acacia Foss of St. James, Abbe Hoehn and Alicia Knoll of Waseca, and Megan Lahti and Michaela Nelson of St. James.
All Class A team and individual matches will take place at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.