by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
When Camille Kraljic was 10, she and best bud Katie O’Connell would be picked up after day care by Katie’s dad, Kevin, who brought them to the courts at Salk. That’s where Camille got started in tennis, tagging along with the O’Connells. She got hooked just like them.
Now a five-year starter and two-year co-captain in the dynastic Elks program, she picked up her 100th victory Sept. 10, fittingly achieved with O’Connell as her partner at No 1 doubles. They beat a Hibbing team at the Apollo tournament for the milestone win.
“Getting 100 was one of my goals but really not that big a deal to me,” said Kraljic. “It was nice to do it with Katie, though.”
What’s a big deal to Kraljic is the team’s success. She has helped the Elks reach state all four years so far, with one runner-up finish (behind Edina in 2009) and two fifth-place finishes. In her five years the Elks have lost only three conference matches, and won two championships.
Her career highlights are “going to state every year, placing second at state that year, and beating (higher-seeded) Forest Lake in the section finals in 10th grade.”
Kraljic, currently the team’s second-best player behind junior Michaela Schulz, has racked up 104 career wins against 25 losses. She joined an Elks’ 100-win club that has about a dozen members.
Mainly a doubles player her first three years, she was 22-8 in eighth grade, 19-5 in ninth, and 22-8 in 10th at No. 1 with Grace Zachman.
Mainly in singles the last two years, she was 27-9 last year at No. 3 and is 14-2 this year at No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles. She made all-NWSC last year and should repeat.
Coach LeRoyce Chapman praised Kraljic for the old-fashioned values of hard work, determination and passion that have keyed her enduring success in tennis.
“Camille has a lot of competitive fire. She knows how to win close matches,” said Chapman. “She has a good influence on the team with her work ethic and her drive … And she is very sensitve and caring about her teammates.”
The 5-foot-4, 125-pound Kraljic has piled up all those wins while dealing with a beat-up body much of the time.
Since eighth grade she’s had pain in the shoulder blade area (it pops out sometimes). She needs physical therapy for that malady which also forced her to give up softball. This year she’s also got pulled muscles from the abdomen to inner thigh.
The first time Kraljic got attention from the paper was in eighth grade when she teamed with senior Krista Narveson at 3-dubs to earn the decisive fourth point in a 4-3 win at Maple Grove. The Star-News had the two of come to the courts for a posed photo on that occasion. Other memorable days she lists are a 2-dubs win with Ali Brandell in the section finals against Forest Lake in 10th grade, and winning at 3-singles last year in the NWSC championship match, a 4-3 team loss to Centennial.
Her record in state duals, incidentally, is 3-8 and she obviously hopes for another trip down to Baseline Tennis Center next month.
Kraljic’s long-range ambition is to be a physical therapist. She hopes to play college tennis “if my body can take it.”
THE KRALJIC SCORECARD
Personal file – Age: 17 … Family: parents John and Nancy; brother Evan, 15 … Sport: tennis … Academics: 3.85 GPA … Other activities: National Honor Society, Spanish Club … College plans: undecided where; physical therapy major, possibly tennis
Favorite stuff – Class: Anatomy … TV show: “Pretty Little Liars” … Best movie seen lately: “No Strings Attached” … Food: pasta at Noodles & Co. … Drink: frozen caramel at Dunn Bros … Music: country … Reading: “Seventeen” magazine … Athletes: Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, James Blake … Kickback: fishing with family in Canada … Place she’d like to visit: Greece