by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The annual Elk River vs. Centennial showdown for the NWSC girls tennis championship went the Cougars way Tuesday.
Centennial’s dominant doubles lineup pulled out a 4-3 win over the Elks as the Cougars won their 15th straight match and finished the regular season 10-0 in conference and 17-1 overall.
The Elks are 7-2 in conference, 13-3 overall, and will finish at Osseo on Thursday.
“They (Centennial) are strong all over,” said LeRoyce Chapman, Elk coach. “I didn’t see our doubles play as well as they could have today, but Centennial came in and they wanted it so badly. You could see that in every point that they played. Their team is all so athletic, and make you work for every single point.”
These two teams have been NWSC rivals for nine years and one or the other has always won the title — six by Centennial (including the last three) and three by the Elks. This marked the seventh time in those nine years the score has been 4-3.
“The two matches our girls always look forward to are Elk River and Mounds View,” said Cougar coach Arnie Lamers, referring to conference and section arch rivals, respectively. “We watch Elk River and what they are doing very closely. Today we just decided to go straight tup and I am glad we did.”
Centennial stuck with its regular lineup while Chapman had No. 2 singles Jen Koehler and No. 1 doubles player Hadley Purdy change places, a maneuver that didn’t work as both points were lost.
On Saturday, moving a singles player to doubles in each match helped the Elks beat three section rivals in a home quadrangular, including Forest Lake 5-2. Forest Lake is the only team that’s beaten Centennial, 6-1 on Aug. 20, although those were pro-8 matches in a tournament.
Chapman used the same lineup that beat Forest Lake.
“That seemed like the logical choice,” said the coach. She added that Koehler’s recent health issues, including headaches and a stomach ailment, were also a big factor in removing her from 2-singles. Koehler missed two of Saturday’s matches.
Elk senior Michaela Schulz won No. 1 singles although Cougar freshman Jenna Sundstrom took her to tiebreaker in the first set. Elk eighth-grader Alyssa Karavitch and freshman Annika Teske each beat a senior in straight sets at 3 and 4. Purdy lost 6-0, 6-0 to Kelly Jachymowski.
Centennial has swept the doubles points in every match this season except the abbreviated duel with Forest Lake in the first week. The Elk River match was no exception as Courtney Klair-Paige Waytashek, Emily Johnson-Meghan Longen, and Taylor Loch-Jasmin Bretoi all won it straight sets. Koehler and Becca O’Connell led 4-2 in the second set, and Lauren Brayden and Kathi Opsahl led 4-3 in the second set, but couldn’t hold on.
“Doubles is where were are tough — we are pretty deep in doubles,” said Lamers. “Singles have played well too. Jenna had a good match against Michaela, who is an awesome player. But our three and four singles just got whipped by good players.”
Centennial had five 7-0 wins, one 6-1, and two 5-2 wins in conference.
The Elks were hoping to tie the Cougars for the championship, having suffered an upset loss to Champlin Park (5-2) along the way. They came close. The match was 3-3 with No. 2 doubles still on the court.
“Elk River has had a good season. I know they are rebuilding a little bit this year with a lot of young players,” said Lamers, who has six seniors among his 10 starters.
Centennial 4, Elk River 3
(1) Michaela Schulz, ER, def Jenna Sundstrom 7-6 (7-2), 6-0
(2) Kelly Jachymowski, Cen, def Hadley Purdy 6-0, 6-0
(3) Alyssa Karavitch, ER, def Danielle Olson 6-0, 6-0
(4) Annika Teske, ER, def Megan Bona 6-3, 6-4
(1) Courtney Klair-Paige Waytashek, Cen, def Becca O’Connell-Jen Koehler 6-0, 6-4
(2) Emily Johnson-Meghan Longen, Den, def Kathi Opsdahl-Lauren Brayden 6-2, 6-4
(3) Taylor Loch-Jasmin Bretoi, Cen, def Rebecca Lieser-Erin Reiner 6-0, 6-3