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WARRIORS ATHLETE OF WEEK: Brainerd tennis player is a winner

Maybe they should start calling her “Winnerstrand” because it seems wherever Sara Wennerstrand plays in the lineup of the Brainerd Warriors’ girls tennis team she’s a winner.

The junior went 9-2 in singles matches this season, including three straight wins in the Section 8-2A team tournament.

In the section individual tournament, she joined teammate Megan Hintz to capture the section doubles championship by winning all five of their matches.

“You ask Sara to try something and she will do it,” Warriors coach Ellen Fussy said. “She’s a multi-sport athlete, she’s a competitor. She stepped up and played good tennis in the team competition. She beat the No. 2 (St. Cloud) Tech girl. She’s steady.”

Wennerstrand-Hintz, the top-seeded team in the North Subsection, opened the section tournament with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Kaci Walvatne-Morgan Daniels of Fergus Falls. Next, they dispatched Whitney Benscoter-Shantel Kluenenberg of Detroit Lakes 6-0, 6-1. In the quarterfinals they defeated Brooke Volpone-Anne Dockendorf of Monticello 6-0, 6-3.

They beat Olivia Dickinson-Annika Johnson of Bemidji 6-3, 6-0, in the semifinals. Finally, they beat Leah Wurm-Sam Eisenreich of St. Cloud Tech 6-1, 6-1, for their title.

“We went out and tried to play our best every match,” Wennerstrand said. “I think we got better each match.

“It was just a great time in our finals match. We didn’t know how it was going to go because we had never played those two — together — before. We knew they were a great team. We watched a little of one of their matches, their last few games, so we knew it would be tough. We just had to go out, be intense and play our best match of the whole tournament.”

Fussy said Wennerstrand-Hintz set the tone early in the section championship.

“Sara opened serving the match, and she opened with an ace,” Fussy said. “The next point Sara served and Megan hit a volley for winner. From the first two points of the match those two were in the driver’s seat.”

Wennerstrand believes she and Hintz play well together.

“Megan’s like the best person at the net ever,” Wennerstrand said. “I like to hit ground strokes but I need to come to the net more.”

Wennerstrand appreciates the opportunity to play singles and doubles but agrees the transition between the two can be difficult.

“It’s kind of fun to switch things up,” she said. “It’s a different game because in singles it’s all you. In doubles, there’s someone else to rely on. Both have their good points. I’m glad I got to play both this year.”

When Wennerstrand and Hintz play in the Class 2A state doubles tournament Oct. 25-26 at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota it will mark Wennerstrand’s third appearance at state. She qualified with the Warriors’ team in 2010 and 2011.

It would have been great to go as a team,” Wennerstrand said, “but we lost a lot of seniors.

“It was fun in the section (team) tournament when we beat Alexandria because that was kind of an upset. We went farther than I thought we would go. Section individuals were fun, too, because Megan and I knew we could make state if we kept the intensity up and worked hard.”

Other notable efforts:

■ Conor Gessell, football, rushed for 224 yards and two TDs against Grand Rapids and 182 yards and two TDs against Alexandria.

■ Luke Boran, football, ran for 116 yards and two TDs against Alexandria.

■ Peder Smith and Gerrit Garberich, cross country, finished 14th and 15th in the CLC meet to earn all-conference honors.

MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at