by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Kelsey Rausch is one of the top theatre performers at Elk River High School but she’s never available for the fall play.
“People have tried to get me to do the fall play, but I enjoy tennis too much,” said Rausch, a senior, after teaming with Kathi Opsahl to win at No. 3 doubles on Wednesday, helping the first-place Elks defeat the Coon Rapids Cardinals 5-2.
“I could probably do both, but that would be too much. I’ve got hard classes, too,” said the straight-A student.
Rausch is probably a lot better at acting, singing and dancing than at tennis, which she’s played since eighth grade and is just now getting regular varsity action.
That’s why Phil Bologna, Rausch’s play director the last three years, used to urge her to give up tennis and come out for the fall play.
“Phil told me I could make all-conference in drama, but not in tennis,” said Rausch. “I’d say, ‘Yeah, but we can go to state in tennis!’ ”
The Elks have gone five straight years to state tournaments and should be a contender for another trip.
In drama, Rausch had two substantial supporting roles last year, playing a Nazi officer’s young wife in the one-act competition play “The Cowbird” in the winter, and one of the March sisters (Meg) in a musical version of “Little Women” in the spring.
In tennis, she lettered as a junior but was still mostly JV while getting a few varsity matches and winning five of them.
This week she has been paired with Opsahl for five straight matches and they’ve won all of them, boosting her career total to 11 wins. They were 3-0 at the Apollo Invitatonal on Saturday, won 6-1, 6-1 against Blaine on Tuesday and 6-2, 6-4 against Coon Rapids on Wednesday.
“Junior varsity was really fun, but now on varsity, it’s more intense,” she said. “No goofing around now. On varsity, I have a goal — to get a permanent spot in the lineup. And now I’ve done that.”
In one light moment against Coon Rapids, she swung and missed at an easy shot and was able to laugh at herself with Opsdahl joining her. Asked if that was as embarrassing as flubbing a line on stage, she said, “Yes, it sure is.”
Elk coach LeRoyce Chapman said Rausch has earned a spot, although the lineup is always subject to change.
“Kelsey works so hard, and has such determination, and she is so good under pressure, that any coach would like to have her out there.”
And any director.
Coon Rapids is one of the strongest Northwest Suburban Conference opponents the Elks will face, but a sweep of singles settled the issue early.
Michaela Schulz and Jen Koehler each had “snowman” wins (6-0, 6-0) while Camille Kraljic and Ali May Kuebelbeck also won in straight sets.
“They all played really well in the wind today,” said Chapman. “They were moving their feet, which is so important in tennis.”
Coon Rapids was tough in doubles, winning at the No.1 and 2 slots.
Elk River s now 5-0 in conference and 8-1 overall. They will host Champlin Park on Thursday.
Elk River 5, Coon Rapids 2
(1) Michaela Schulz, ER, def Emily Bauer 6-0, 6-0
(2) Camille Kraljic, ER, def Hannah Naegele 6-2, 6-0
(3) Ali May Kuebelbeck, ER, def Lauren Beckman 6-4, 6-2
(4) Jen Koehler, ER, def Heidi Hannula 6-0, 6-0
(1) Libby Sterriick-Brii Havelka, CR, def Taylor Lussier Flesher-Katie O’Connell 6-2, 6-0
(2) Hannah Miller-Cyrstal Overbush, CR, def Becca O’Connell-Hadley Purdy 6-3, 6-2
(3) Kelsey Rausch-Kathi Opsahl, ER, def Alexi Johnson-Mady Brinkman 6-2, 6-4