By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
As the daughter of a pair former Gustavus Adolphus tennis players and coaches at the college, Calleigh Carlson appreciates the team aspect of an individual sport.
So when the St. Peter High School senior dropped the first set of the No. 1 singles match against Mankato East/Loyola on Thursday, she thought not of herself but of her teammates.
“It’s our last regular-season match, so I wanted to do it for the rest of the girls,” Carlson said. “I tried to pull it out and win for the rest of the team.”
Carlson bounced back and took control, defeating Cougars sophomore Libby Andrego 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 as part of St. Peter’s 4-3 nonconference victory at the East courts.
Carlson’s parents, Jon and Heidi (Rostberg) Carlson, were outstanding players at Gustavus. Jon is currently the Gusties’ coach, a position Heidi held for one year. Heidi currently is the director of the Swanson Tennis Center.
“They’ve been very supportive of me, super supportive,” Calleigh Carlson said, “whether it’s driving me to tournaments, helping me with my strokes, giving me advice. I owe it all to my parents.”
Carlson had to work her way up the Saints’ ladder though.
She has been a varsity player since eighth grade, and has played both singles and doubles along the way. This season was her first at No. 1 singles. Thursday’s victory gave her a 14-2 record heading into the postseason.
“She’s an all-around great captain,” St. Peter coach Aaron Rothenberger said. “She’s a great role model for our younger players. She steps up when we need her to step up.”
That was certainly the case in a meet that featured four three-setters and a clinching match that went to a pair of tiebreakers.
The Cougars swept doubles play and had a 3-2 lead on the Saints with two matches to play.
Carlson fell behind 3-2 in the third set but rattled off three wins in a row. Her big serve tied the match and put her up 5-3, but the key moment came when she stepped in and swatted a backhand winner on break point to go up 5-4.
“I had to place the ball when I hit it,” she said. “(Andrego) is a great player, very consistent.”
Carlson’s victory tied the meet, leaving it to be decided at No. 3 singles, which was in a second set tiebreaker. St. Peter’s Michaela Meyer won the marathon match 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6) over Jessica Kuchenmeister to give the Saints the win.
The Saints’ Rachel Huber was a 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 winner at No. 2 singles, and Aliza Doherty won in straight sets at No. 4.
East/Loyola’s No. 1 doubles team of Kjersten Lemke and Paige Lingbeck, as well as the No. 3 duo of Jia Tan and Caylin Steinberg, won in three sets. The Cougars’ No. 2 team of Justine Pasker and Katelyn Scharmer cruised to their victory.
The Cougars will play in the Big Nine Conference tournament Saturday in Rochester. St. Peter will open section play Thursday against United South Central.