Athlete of the week: Michaela Schulz, Elk River, tennis: Longtime luminary
by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
In Michaela Schulz’s six years on the Elk varsity there was never a time when she was eased in. Already a key player in seventh grade at No. 4 singles, she delivered the conference title by pulling out a 3-set win over a talented freshman for the fourth point in a 4-3 win over Centennial.
Schulz has thrived on pressure ever since, helping the Elks reach state all six years in the lineup. Her 198-33 final record includes 16-10 in state tournaments.
All-conference since eighth grade, the 5-foot-8, 130-pound athlete could have been No. 1 at most schools by ninth grade or even earlier if not for Katie Jesperson and Cassanda Brown (currently at Augustana and St. Cloud State) holding the top spots. Schulz had 98 career wins before taking over in 10th grade. In three years at No. 1 she rolled up exactly 100 more wins, leaving the Elk top three as follows: Jesperson 213, Schulz 198, Brown 186.
Schulz played in six state tournaments and never had a bad one. In team, singles and doubles, she was never worse than 2-2 at state. She went 5-2 as a freshman —2-1 in team to help the Elks place second behind Edina, and 3-1 in doubles for the consolation title with Leah Koehler. She helped her teams finish second, third, and fifth (twice) at state.
Asked to pick career highlights, she has such a long list of adventures and achievements that this could have taken longer than one of her many 6-0, 6-0 wins. But Schulz is nothing if not organized.
She said: “Winning that first conference title in seventh grade. And placing second at state in ninth grade. Going unbeaten (individually, at No. 1 singles) in conference this year. And, of course, never NOT going to state. We went all six years!”
Playing in USTA tournaments the rest of the year, Schulz has qualified for the five-state zonal team four straight years, reached semifinals of a section qualifier for nationals in 2010; and earned a spot on a six-player Fed Cup team last summer, to play in California against several of the top hundred players.
“That was an awesome experience,” she relates. “Your game escalates, in order to compete with people who’ll go on to D-I.” It was “eye-opening” in another respect: “I met girls who said their parents force them to play and they hate it. I’m so happy that I could just choose to play.”
Schulz also helps tennis pro and Elk boys coach Randy Ronning give lessons at Daytona Courts. “I just love working with little kids,” said Schulz.
For all her successes, Schulz’s prep career had a tearful end. State singles was wide-open this year and Schulz, with as good a chance as anyone, was upset by an Edina seventh-grader, Sophia Reddy, 6-2, 2-6, 3-6, in the second round (Reddy lost a 3-setter in the finals). Schulz had good, long cry, but says she’s gotten over it. There’s always another tournament coming up, along with a college career and more goals.
“I don’t know where I’m going yet, but my goals are to play in an NCAA tournament, both team and individually, like in high school. And get real good grades.
THE SCHULZ SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 17 … Family: parents Rich and Dawn; sisters Stacy and Heather … Sport: tennis … Academics: 3.71 GPA … Other activities: National Honor Society, Speech Team .. College plans: undecided where and major; play tennis
Favorite stuff — Class: Human Anatomy, English … Movie: “Finding Nemo,” “Gladiator” … Book: “Hunger Games” … Food: asian at Benihana-s … Drink: Gatorade light blue … Athletes: Rafael Nadal, Kim Clijsters … Kickback: water sports …. Wants to visit: Wimbledon