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WARRIORS ATHLETES OF WEEK: Doubles duo dominant on way to section title

Mikinzee Salo and Kayla Kraemer were the top-seeded doubles team entering the Section 8-2A individual tennis tournament last week at Gold's Gym in Sartell.

They left no doubt the seeding was deserved as they captured the championship without losing a set in five matches.

The Brainerd duo defeated Sylvia Marolt-Karlee Jorgenson of Thief River Falls 6-0, 6-2; Amy Frosaker-Mackinzee Schultz of Bemidji 6-1, 6-3; Brittany Holm-Jessica Larson of Alexandria 6-0, 6-2; Brainerd teammates Nichole Gervenak-Megan Hintz 6-1, 6-3; and Lexi Portz-Jill Kedrowski of St. Cloud Tech 6-4, 6-1, to win Brainerd’s first section doubles title since Megan Steiger-Megan Whalen in 2001.

“It definitely wasn’t easy,” Kraemer said, “but it wasn’t terribly difficult. Our matches were close. We had good competition.”

Warriors coach Ellen Fussy and her staff thought the duo was the section’s top team, it was just a matter of proving it.

“We thought they should come out as champs, and they walked out of there kind of like it was their show,” Fussy said. “They were confident. I didn’t see any lull in their play. They played smart doubles. There is a chemistry. Both are confident players.

“I think they should compete with anybody at state. I know there are good doubles teams from other sections, but I would match them up against anybody.”

Salo-Kraemer advance to the Class 2A state tournament Oct. 27-28 at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota.

Last year, the duo finished second in the section and sixth in the state. They reunited this postseason after Salo played singles the majority of the regular season and Kraemer teamed with Sara Wennerstrand at No. 1 doubles.

In her sixth year as a varsity player, Salo said it isn't too difficult to switch to doubles and that she and Kraemer communicate well on the court.

“Kayla and I have played together a lot,” she said. “We know how each other play. I like both singles and doubles. They're both really fun. It’s fun to play singles for the team and also to get to play doubles individually.

“Doubles is like a game of angles. It's not always about outhitting your opponent, it's being smarter. They’re very different strategies. You have to be good at volleys, playing more like a small game.”

A three-year varsity veteran, Kraemer has worked on her game at the net.

“Probably my biggest strength is net play,” she said. “When I was a sophomore playing with Zoe (Houle) that's one thing I struggled in. One of my goals was to get better at net play.”

Fussy, a former doubles player for the Warriors, has a fondness for doubles.

“I love watching good doubles,” she said. “Both have such good hands. Salo has great hands volleying. Kraemer can run down anything. Salo has her serve. Most people, all they can do, is block it back. It’s hard to do much with her serve. They have weapons.

“They should represent our section very well at state.”

Other notable efforts:

• Fallon Ryan, swimming, won two events and was on a winning relay against Willmar.

• Stephanie Hansen, swimming, won two events and was on two winning relays against Alexandria.