by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Cassandra (Brown) Smith had a 186-19 career record with Elk River, and was a three-year starter for St. Cloud State, but she cheerfully defers to 14-year-old sister Meagan Brown as the stronger half of their doubles team.
“She could kick my butt now, that’s for sure,” said Cassandra, 22, after the sibs teamed up to beat three men’s teams and claim the “A” doubles title at the Elk River Open on Sunday.
There’s usually women’s doubles at the ERO but that division was not filled out this year so director Randy Ronning combined the women with a few men’s teams and called it the “A” Division.
Meanwhile, another set of sibs, Jack and Ian Hansen, of St. John’s University, won the Men’s Open title.
After a first round bye, Cassandra and Meagan beat Ryan Kadelbach and Dylan Fyle 6-0, 6-4; Kyle Sylvester and Derck Brown (no relation) 6-1, 6-1; and, in the finals, Brett Ehresman and Ryan Wall of Maple Grove 6-1, 6-1.
“That was different,” chuckled Cassandra about playing men’s teams. “Not what we expected. We found out when we got there; Randy said he had to put some men’s teams with us. I guess it worked out pretty well.”
Observed Ronning, half-joking: “We might have to put them in Men’s Open Doubles next year, the way they’re playing.”
Meagan Brown was 25-8 for the Elks as an eighth-grader at No. 1 singles. Cassandra was No. 2 most of her career because she was a classmate of all-stater Katie Jesperson, the only Elk with more career wins than she has.
After the three matches together Sunday, Cassandra reflected: “Meagan has improved very quickly. She puts a lot of time on the courts. She hits every day, she does the sand workouts, and she goes to national tournaments.”
While the willowy, agile Meagan fired off sizzling serves — her most notable improvement since last fall — and “winners” at the net, Cassandra patrolled the baseline with cool efficiency.
“That’s pretty much the same way it was in college when I played with Katie Kochevar, too,” said Cassandra.
Cassandra is a semester short of obtaining her degree as an elementary teacher. She student-taught at Lincoln Elementary in her hometown last spring (and thus missed her senior year of tennis at SCSU) and will be back at Lincoln for the first semester this year. Playing tennis is on the back-burner. “I could count on two hands the number of time’s I’ve hit in the last couple years,” said Cassandra, who does some coaching of young players.
Ehresman and Wall reached finals with a bye and victories over Tanner and Ryan Hermanson 6-3, 6-2, and Kevin and Joe O’Connell 6-4, 6-1.
“Johnnies” team wins Open
The Open doubles finals was a hard-fought match won by Ian Hansen, an alum of St. John’s tennis, and Jack Hansen, junior-to-be who played No. 1 last year.
The brothers from Dawson, MN, outlasted Bethel coach Drew Fernelius and his son Hunter, a junior-to-be at Armstrong. The score was 5-7, 6-4, 10-4.
The Hansen’s reached finals beating Jim McGibbon and Trevor Kleinschang 6-2, 6-2; Dino Weisnahan and John Kuntz 6-2, 7-5; and Curt Horton and Steve Kael 6-4, 6-1.
The Fernelius’s advanced beating Jordan Haack and Tyler Creelman 6-2, 6-1; Jeremy Thompson and Ronning 6-3, 4-6, 10-7; and Joel Cassels and Mike Kreklau 6-3, 6-2.
Horton and Kael earned third, placing edging Cassels and Kreklau 9-7.
To recap, the singles winners on Saturday were Scott Larsen, the St. Benedict’s tennis coach, and Kelsey Dorr, who’s going into eighth grade at Princeton. The mixed doubles champs Friday were siblings Mitchel and Alison Brandell.