by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Hadley Purdy is an only child, but, in the Elk River tennis program, she found herself a close second family, with lots of sisters with whom to share thrills and spills through her school years.
Reflecting on four varsity seasons in a strong Elk program, Purdy said: “In ninth and 10th grade, it was mostly about wins, but as I matured, the most important thing for me is all the memories. I’ve made some of my best friends in life from tennis. It’s not just a sport for me. I’ve learned so much about working for goals and overcoming obstacles. Tennis has been a huge influence on my life.”
Purdy and longtime doubles partner Becca O’Connell were the team’s big sisters this year as the lone senior starters and co-captains on a 17-6 team with teammates in grades eight through 11.
Purdy started tennis in fourth grade with O’Connell on a team coached by Becca’s dad, Kevin. Purdy and O’Connell — “Hads” and “Becs” to their teammates — were doubles partners ever since, including all four years on varsity, at No. 3, No. 2, then two years at No. 1.
Purdy, a two-time all-conference pick, played in three state tournaments, including a third-place Class AA finish in 10th grade, and helped the Elks post an 83-22 record in her four-year tenure. The Elks were NWSC co-champions this year and section runners-up.
Coach Leroyce Chapman regarded Purdy as an “incredible leader” through her actions, work ethic, encouraging words and her “passion for sports and people.”
Regarding Purdy’s tennis skills, the coach described her as an aggressive player at the net who continually improved her placement and movement.
Purdy had a 64-39 career record, about 95 percent of her matches with O’Connell. At No. 1, they were 15-12 last year and 13-10 this year. Hadley was 18-10 overall this year, including a tournament where she won with three other partners when her best bud was at a wedding.
Purdy-O’Connell’s biggest win together was a 6-2, 6-1 conquest of an outstanding Forest Lake duo that sparked the Elks to a huge sectional upset of the previously unbeaten Rangers, 4-3. They had lost to the same duo twice previously, with the Rangers beating the Elks 5-2 each time.
“We knew if we really gave it our all, we could do it,” Purdy said. “Our team always plays with heart and gives 110 percent at section time.”
But it can go the other way, too. The Elks wound up losing to Duluth East 4-3 in the section finals, a team they’d beaten 4-3 in September, and Hads and Becs lost their match.
“That was the most devastating feeling I’ve ever had walking off a court,” said Purdy about the heartbreaking career-ender.
In conference, too, the Elks lost one they probably should’ve won (Andover) but won one they probably should’ve lost (Centennial) and wound up tying Coon Rapids for the NWSC championship.
“It was really a roller-coaster season,” Purdy acknowledged. Her final season, obviously never dull, was one more campaign of character-building and shared experiences for her rich memory bank.
THE PURDY SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents Pat and Becky … Sport: tennis … Other activities: National Honor Society, DECA, Link, student council (grades 10, 11) … Academics: 3.5 GPA … College plans: business major, undecided where … Career goal: corporate law
Favorite stuff — Class: world history, government, English … TV show: “House-hunting International,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Awkward” … Music: Coldplay, One Republic, Kid Cudi … Food: pasta, especially chicken parmesan … Drink: Shirley Temple … Teams: Badgers basketball, NDSU football … Athlete: Rafael Nadal … Kickback activities: reading, running, photography …. Wants to visit: London