by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River and Centennial have been slugging it out for the conference championship in girls tennis for eight seasons now.
But this year, Centennial left little doubt who was the top team, tumbling the Elks 6-1 in Circle Pines on Thursday.
“Nerves got to us today. And they (Centennial) have some pretty good players, too,” reflected LeRoyce Chapman, Elk River’s first-year head coach.
The No. 7 ranked Cougars, unbeaten for the season at 17-0, are 8-0 in Northwest Suburban matches and dropped the No. 10 ranked Elks to 7-1. Each has two conference duals left.
“We felt confident we would win,” said Cougar coach Arnie Lamers. “We just weren’t sure what Elk River would do with their lineup.”
Michaela Schulz of the Elks won quickly at No. 1 doubles, 6-0, 6-1, but the Elks by that time were behind in the other six matches.
The Cougars wound up winning all six, with just one of them going three sets. That was No. 1 doubles where Kelly Jackymowski and Courtney Klaire outlasted Katie O’Connell and Taylor Lussier Flescher 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.
“We thought that with Schulz at one-singles, they might try to load up doubles and win those three,” said Lamers. “We know they have some good players.”
But Centennial has gone unbeaten in doubles all season, so the Elks took their chances with a straight-up lineup. The other singles matches were two-setters but hard-fought, including two ending 6-4, 6-4.
The match was filmed by North Metro TV Sports, Channel 15.
In the eight seasons these two schools have been in the same conference, Centennial has snagged five championships, including the last two, and the Elks have won three.
The Elks have only five conference losses in those eight years, all against the Cougars, while Centennial has just three losses, three of them against the Elks.
The 6-1 score was eye-catching, as all the other duels between the two teams have ended 4-3 except for one 5-2 Elk win.
Centennial’s slate includes wins over several teams who’ve won most of their matches including St. Paul Academy, Mahtomedi, Stillwater and now Elk River.
Post-season is a different story as Centennial never makes “state” while Elk River has gone five straight years. Always blocking the way in Centennial’s section is Mounds View, a perennial top-five team.
“We wish we could get in Elk River’s section,” said. Lamers. “But one of these years, we’ll beat Mounds View.”
The Elks (12-3 overall) overall will host a round-robin quadrangular on Saturday with section rivals Andover, Hibbing-Chisholm, and Forest Lake, starting 9 a.m.
Centennial 6, Elk River 1
(1) Michaela Schulz, ER, def Katie Lincoln 6-0, 6-1
(2) Jennifer Sundstrom, Cen, def Camille Kraljic 6-4, 6-4
(3) Alex Tangden, Cen, def Aly May Kuebelbeck 6-4, 6-4
(4) Jasmin Broto, Cen, def Jen Koehler 6-2, 6-3
(1) Kelly Jackymowski-Courtney Klaire, Cen, def Katie O’Connell-Taylor Lussier Flesher 5-7, 6-3, 6-1
(2) Missy Barnett-Paige Waytashek, Cen, def Becca O’Connell-Hadley PUrdy 6-0, 6-1
(3) Maggy Sundstrom-Emily Johnson, Cen, def Kelsey Rausch-Kathi Opsahl 6-3, 6-0