by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River tennis took a knockdown punch on Tuesday, but the Elks sprang back to their feet on Thursday.
A stellar performance by Michaela Schulz in upsetting the No. 3 ranked player in the state spearheaded a 5-2 victory over the Andover Huskies that got the Elks right back in the Northwest Suburban race.
“I think our loss on Tuesday was what put a little extra fire in our girls and they came today ready to win,” said coach LeRoyce Chapman. “I am so proud of my team. They played so hard and came together and trusted one another.”
The Elks, toppled by Champlin Park 5-2 there Tuesday, are now 6-1 in the NWSC, same as Andover. Centennial is 7-0. Champlin Park is 4-3.
“We know with this win today we are right back in it,” said Schulz, senior co-captain.
A six-year starter, Schulz has 177 varsity wins, but none previously against her Andover arch rival, junior Faith Lee. Schulz estimates she had lost 10 times in singles to Lee in high school and USTA.
But not this time. Schulz, oozing with intensity, took Lee apart 6-1, 6-1.
“I needed to stay focused. I know if I stay focused on court, I can do anything,” reflected Schulz, who’s 9-0 this year.
Schulz related she finally got a win over Lee in doubles over the summer.
“I found out some of her weaknesses, and I really capitalized on them today,” said the sixth-year starter. “It feels amazing.”
Lee, who was consolation champ at state last year after a first-round loss to the eventual state champion, is ranked No. 3 in Class AA on the state coaches association web site. Schulz is not ranked in their top 15 but probably will be now.
“Beating Faith was my first motivation, about 75 percent, but the other 25 was, let’s do this (as a team),” said Schulz. “I knew that by me having a really tough match and stepping up, it would pick the others up, especially on the courts on this side.”
The rivalry will resume soon. Andover will play in a four-team event in Elk River on Sept. 22 and the Huskies are in Elk River’s section as well.
“Michaela has worked so hard, and she was ready, she knew what she had to do,” said Chapman. “One of her goals is to go unbeaten in conference.”
Another win the Elks probably could not have assumed came at No. 3 singles, with eighth-grader Alyssa Karavitch facing Huskie junior Ali May Kuebelbeck, who was an all-conference player for the Elks last year but moved to Andover this year. Karavitch was a JV player and occasional 4-singles player for the Elks last year, while Kuebelbeck had a strong season at No. 3 singles.
But Karavitch, who played over 90 matches this summer, beat Kuebelbeck 6-3, 7-5, improving to 8-1 for the year.
“Ali May is a wonderful player, and those two were neck-and-neck the whole time,” said Chapman. “It was a really good win for Alyssa.”
Also prevailing were Annika Teske at No. 4 singles, Hadley Purdy/Becca O’Connell at No. 1 doubles, and Kathi Opsahl/Lauren Brayden at No. 2 doubles.
Regarding the loss to Champlin Park — the first time in nine seasons the Elks have lost to anyone other than Centennial in conference — the factors were (1) high winds that probably had an equalizing effect the same way a muddy football field does, (2) the absence of No. 2 singles Jen Koehler (stomach ache) which weakened singles, and (3) the fact that, as Chapman stated, Champlin Park really came to play, more than the Elks.
“We know that everybody we play will bring their best against us,” said Chapman, “and we have to be ready for it.”
Next for the Elks is the Eagan Invitational on Saturday.
Elk River 5, Andover 2
(1) Michaela Schulz, ER, def Faith Lee 6-1, 6-1
(2) Destiny Lee, And, def Jen Koehler 6-1, 6-1
(3) Alyssa Karavitch, ER, def Ali May Kuebelbeck 6-3, 7-5
(4) Annika Teske, ER, def Meghan Straws 6-2, 6-2
(1) Hadley Purdy-Becca O’Connell, ER, def Grace Bergquist-Amanda Weiss 7-5, 6-3
(2) Kathi Opsahl-Lauren Brayden, ER, def Kjersten Meester-Kaleig Meester 6-4, 6-1
(3) Amanda Holsted-Hannah Femwright, And, def Rebecca Leiser-Erin Reiner 6-0, 4-6, 6-2