GIRLS TENNIS: Warriors should continue to play at high level
As evidenced by three straight trips to the Class 8-2A state tournament, the Brainerd Warriors program is on the upswing.
In the last three years, the Warriors have gone 27-3 in Central Lakes Conference play, winning the 2011 title, and 52-11 overall, capturing three Section 8-3A championships and making three tournament appearances.
“We’re really looking toward keeping Brainerd tennis on the upswing,” said Warriors coach Ellen Fussy, whose team opens at the Hibbing quadrangular Monday, Aug. 20.
“We’ve got some younger girls waiting in the ranks,” Fussy added. “We need to keep building because tennis is a sport that we have the luxury of playing all summer. Kids that are competitive, and want to compete, need to know June, July and August is when you lay the foundation. The foundation needs to be laid when they walk in the second Monday in August.”
The Warriors have an opportunity to continue their run this fall as five members of the state tournament team return: Seniors Megan Hintz and Morgan Steffen, juniors Natalie Comeau and Sara Wennerstrand and sophomore Caitlin Steffen.
“We’re looking for a competitive season, we’ve got some great leaders, girls who are willing to work,” Fussy said. “Four days into (the preseason) it seems like we’re a very cohesive group. That’s very important in individual sports as well as team sports. We need everybody working. You’re only as good as your last match.
“It’s going to be fun putting the puzzle pieces together because we don’t have a definite one through four singles and we don’t have a definite one through three doubles.
“We look at that as that’s our job, that’s our challenge, and we like that. That will make it interesting for us. It may be a little frustrating for the girls, but we think they’re willing to work, no matter where they’re playing, as long as they’re playing tennis.”
Hintz, one of three captains, mainly played No. 2 doubles last year and finished 30-4.
“She’s a very strong player,” Fussy said. “She’s been on the court a lot this summer. She’s deceptively quick because she has such great hands. We see her as a senior leader. Whatever spot we need to play her at this year we know she will play tough and compete for us.”
Morgan Steffen, another captain, combined with her sister, Caitlin, to compile a 24-5 mark at No. 3 doubles.
“They were a nice No. 3 doubles team last year,” Fussy said. “They’re both more seasoned, and a year older. We may be looking at each of them at a different position and maybe playing a different role on the team.
“We’re looking maybe at Caitlin working into our singles lineup, we may need her there. Morgan is more of a true doubles player. She knows the angles, she’s a smart player. We’re hoping to utilize her in our doubles lineup.
“They’re both smart, seasoned veterans. Caitlin’s a veteran as a sophomore, Morgan’s gives us a lot of leadership.”
Comeau went 21-8, primarily at No. 3 singles last year.
“We’re forecasting that Natalie will be somewhere in our singles lineup, but we’re not sure where,” Fussy said. “She’s a competitor. Her nickname is ‘The Bulldog’ because she’s not going to let you get past her without a fight. We’re hoping she brings that competitive spirit. We need to get a point from her every match, if we can.”
Wennerstrand played mainly No. 1 doubles last year, finishing 26-5.
“She’s a good doubles player,” Fussy said. “All-around she’s just a good tennis player. We may need to pull her into the singles lineup to be our premier singles player. She’s a versatile player. She will play wherever we ask her to play.”
Fussy said others in the early running to break into the varsity lineup are seniors Lauren Rud, Chloe Glassman and captain Rosemary Hunter, junior Kristina Anderson and freshmen Brooke Mimmack and Ashley Fitterer.
■ Warriors roster
Seniors: Chloe Glassman, Lauren Rud, Maiah Maki, Megan Hintz, Morgan Steffen, Rosemary Hunter,
Juniors: Gretchen Gramer, Kristina Anderson, Natalie Comeau, Sara Dick, Sara Wennerstrand
Sophomore: Caitlin Steffen, Claire Siekas, Hailey Hinrichs, Hannah Moen, Kallie Voss, Karlene Knutson, Shayla Metz
Freshmen: Abby Thorkelson, Ashley Fitterer, Brooke Mimmack, Emma Johnson, Hannah Spitzley, Jenna Swenson, Madisen Exsted, Maura Halverson, Megan Wroolie, Molly West
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.