by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Kathi Opsahl and Lauren Brayden delivered the crucial fourth point as the Elk River Elks fended off Andover 4-3 Tuesday and kept alive their bid for a seventh consecutive state trip.
“We really needed that point and they pulled it off,” said coach LeRoyce Chapman about the No. 2 doubles team that secured the second-round win at Daytona indoor courts.
“It was so cool to see the two of them come through. Kathi, especially, being a senior, it meant a lot to her.”
After two sub-section wins, the Elks advance to Section 7AA semifinals Saturday at Moore Lake indoor courts in Fridley. The finals will be held Monday.
The Elks (18-4) had beaten Andover (15-8) twice previously, 5-2 in conference and 4-3 in a tournament. Andover coach Eric Bertram loaded up doubles for this match, shifting 2- and 3-singles to No. 1 doubles, and moving 1-doubles and 2-doubles down a notch.
Basically he was conceding 2-3-4 singles in exchange for a realistic shot at sweeping doubles, which would leave it up to a marquee match between Elk River’s No. 6 ranked Michaela Schultz and Andover’s No. 5 Faith Lee, who had split two previous duels this year.
But when Opsahl and Brayden capped a 6-3, 6-3 win over Amanda Weiss and Grace Bergquist, the Elks had a 4-2 lead, with Alyssa Karavitch, Annika Teske and Jen Koehler notching quick singles wins earlier.
“When I saw that Jen had won, I knew we had to get this one for the team,” said Opsahl. “And when the team all came out and hugged us, that was like, wow! That was great.”
They took the pressure off Schultz, who, in the final match played, lost a close two-setter to Lee, 4-6, 6-7 (3-7).
Opsahl and Brayden kept firing big, aggressive serves at the Huskie duo, yet had far fewer serving errors than their opponents.
“We were really pumped up for this match,” said Brayden, asked about the extra mustard on their serves. “And this was third time we played, and we knew they were gonna really want it a lot, so we had to step up our game to next level.”
With a 10-7 record together at No. 2, and facing a duo that normally plays No. 1 for a good team, Opsahl and Brayden were hardly a sure thing, but came through with their best tennis.
“They both have big serves. Kathi has really improved her serve this year and Lauren, too,” said Chapman. “They did a good job moving their feet. I told them, if they keep making (Andover) hit two or three times, they’ll get the points.”
Brayden said she and Jen Koehler beat the same pair in a doubles tournament once at Daytona, so she was familiar with them. “They are really good players,” she said.
The duel of ranked stars wound up being just for fun. They hammered away at each other from the baseline with Lee maintaining a slight edge. Schultz is 20-2 this year with two losses to Lee after beating her in the conference match. The Elks’ 5-2 win over Andover was when Schultz won, and the 4-3 matches were when Lee won.
Ali May Kuebelbeck, the former Elk all-conference player who moved to Andover this year, won at No. 1 doubles with Destiny Lee, over Hadley Purdy and Becca O’Connell 6-1, 6-0. Kuebelbeck lost in the previous two Elks-Huskies clashes.
Next for the Elks is sub-section singles and doubles on Thursday, at St. Francis if they can play outside, or at Spring Lake Park if they must move inside.
Elk River 4, Andover 3
(1) Faith Lee, And, def Michaela Schultz 6-4, 7-6 (7-3)
(2) Jen Koehler, ER, def Kiersten Meester 6-0, 6-2
(3) Alyssa Karavitch, ER, def Meghan Strauss 6-1, 6-0
(4) Annika Teske, ER, def Kalleigh Meester 6-1, 6-0
(1) Destiny Lee-Ali May Kuebelbeck, And, def Becca O’Connell-Hadley Purdy 6-1, 6-0
(2) Lauren Brayden-Kathi Opsahl, ER, def Amanda Weiss-Grace Bergquist 6-3, 6-3
(3) Amanda Holstad-Hannah Fenwick, And, def Brooke Burns-Rebecca Lieser 6-2, 6-0