by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
For Elk River tennis, this is one of those seasons when just getting there will have to be enough.
The Elks, after scrapping to their ninth state berth, and seventh in a row, with less talent and depth than usual, were scuttled at state by perennial champion Edina 6-1, and again by No. 9 Mounds View 6-1 in the consolation round, at the U of M on Tuesday.
The Elks, who finished duals 20-6, are not done, as Michaela Schulz will play in the singles tournament beginning Thursday.
This marked the fifth time in nine state trips the Elks have lost to Edina, which has won 15 consecutive state crowns and 29 overall.
Coach LeRoyce Chapman admonished her team to just remember they were playing in a state tournament.
“It’s intimidating to play Edina, but I told them, Stay loose! Enjoy yourselves! I think they had fun.”
Elk senior Rebecca Lieser, asked what it’s like to take on Edina, with defeat pretty much certain, smiled, “We know that, but it’s an honor to play against Edina at the state tournament.”
Michaela Schulz, the Elk senior ranked No. 6 in the state, nabbed the lone point against Edina, a hard-fought 3-7, 7-5, 10-4 decision over No. 9 ranked Maddie Boyer, rallying from 5-4 in the second set.
Against Mounds View, the point was earned by eighth-grader Alyssa Karavitch, 6-1, 6-2 over Emma Bartels at No. 3 singles. Jen Koehler at 2-singles, and Hadley Purdy-Becca O’Connell at 1-doubles, lost in third-set tiebreakers.
The Elks tried to steal a doubles point (or at least make them close) against Edina, by moving their 2-3-4 singles players to doubles, and sacrificing three dubs players in singles. The Elks manned to win a combined eight games in doubles while losing all in straight sets.
Chapman marveled at the Hornet doubles teams for their swift and sure movements and masterful angles and their singles players as “ball machines.” She knows the feeling, having played doubles against the Hornets in 2003. “I didn’t win a game,” she winced.
Lieser, who lost to Hannah Hankinson 6-1, 6-0 at No. 3, was elated to be playing in a state tournament after five seasons at sub-varsity levels.
“I started out as bottom player on the JV. That’s pretty low! So this year was great.”
Normally at No. 3 doubles, she was one of the dubs thrown into singles, which she cheerfully referred to as a “suicide mission.”
“I got one game, and I was really proud of that,” said Lieser. “It’s been a long time since I played singles.”
In nine trips to state, all since 2002, Elk River placed second once (2009), third twice, fourth, fifth twice, and sixth. This year marked only the second time the Elks were 0-2 at state. Luck of the draw is always a factor and the Elks had none this year.
Schulz (28-3) is hoping to make the final four at state with two wins in singles Thursday, with a secondary quest of securing her 200th career win. She notched No. 197 against Boyer, but was denied No. 198 when Mounds View’s No. 2 ranked Summer Brills held her off 6-4, 7-5.
Next for Schulz will be her opening singles match Thursday against Blaine’s Mary Liz Swanson, whom she edged in a three-setter in conference play.
(Brills is top-seeded in the singles tournament. The state’s top-ranked player and defending champion, Rochester Century freshman Jessica Aney, opted to play doubles this year with her sister.)
Top seeds advance
In other first-round matches, No. 4 seed Rochester Century beat No. 5 Mounds View 6-1, No. 2 Minnetonka topped Stillwater 7-0, and No.3 Prior Lake tripped St. Cloud Tech 5-2. The semifinal matches Wednesday will be Edina vs. Century at 8 a.m. and Minnetonka vs. Prior Lake at 10 a.m., with the championship at 4 p.m.
Coaches seeded five teams this year, for the first time, with the three unseeded teams, including the Elks, drawing straws for the top three.
Edina 6, Elk River 1
(1) Michaela Schultz, ER, def. Maddie Boyer 3-6, 7-5, (10-4)
(2) Sophia Reddy, Edi, def. Lauren Brayden 6-1, 6-0
(3) Hannah Hankinson, Edi, def. Rebecca Lieser 6-1, 6-0
(4) Margaux Boyer, Edi, def. Brooke Burns 6-0, 6-1.
(1) Meghan Herring-Morgan Marinovich, Edi, def. Jennifer Koehler-Rebecca O’Connell 6-1, 6-2
(2) Mackenzi Marinovich-Katie Engelking, Edi, def. Hadley Purdy-Alyssa Karavitch 6-1, 6-0
(3) Caroline Ruwe-Liza Ware, Edi, def. Katherine Opsahl-Annika Teske 6-2, 6-2.
Mounds View 6, Elk River 1
(1) Summer Brills, MV, def. Michaela Schulz 6-4, 7-5
(2) Kourtney Jakubic, MV, def. Jennifer Koehler 3-6, 6-4, (10-3)
(3) Alyssa Karavitch, ER, def. Emma Bartels 6-1, 6-2
(4) Catie Meinen, MV, def. Annika Teske 6-3, 6-4.
(1) Mari Cartwright -Paige Thayer, MV, def. Hadley Purdy-Rebecca O’Connell 4-6, 6-2, (10-7)
(2) Annie DeWitt-Kenzie Anderson, MV, def. Katherine Opsahl-Lauren Brayden 6-4, 6-3
(3) Lexi Pfenning-Mandy Huang, MV, def. Rebecca Lieser-Erin Reiner 6-0, 6-0.