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Warriors Athletes of Week: Rusk, Fletcher a trustworthy combination

Brainerd Dispatch / Steve Kohls / Britney Fletcher (left) and Kennedy Rusk have teamed up to compile a 22-3 record for the Brainerd Warriors at No. 1 doubles this season.

Kennedy Rusk

Sport: Tennis

Position: No. 1 doubles

Year: Senior

Age: 17

Height: 5-6

Career highlight: Beating St. Cloud Tech No. 1 doubles team this season, qualifying for section doubles tournament in 2015 with Jenna Swenson

Other sports: Hockey, track & field

Grade-point average: 3.7

Favorite class: Math

Favorite food: Pasta

Favorite movie: "Miracle on Ice"

Favorite TV show: "Grey's Anatomy"

Hobbies: Sports

Future plans: Attend college, play tennis in college, possibly pursue career in dental hygiene

Favorite tennis players: Serena & Venus Williams

Parents: Andrea and Jeff Rusk

Britney Fletcher

Sport: Tennis

Position: No. 1 doubles

Year: Sophomore

Age: 15

Height: 5-7

Career highlight: Beating St. Cloud Tech No. 1 doubles team this year

Other sports: Volleyball, lacrosse

Grade-point average: 3.9

Favorite class: Math

Favorite food: Pasta

Favorite TV show: "Vampire Diaries"

Hobbies: Being on water, being with friends

Favorite tennis player: Serena Williams

Parents: Sandi and Ed Fletcher

One is termed a "doubles specialist" by her coach and has never played singles at the varsity level.

The other started out as a singles player, but has found her niche in doubles.

Senior doubles specialist Kennedy Rusk has teamed up with sophomore Britney Fletcher this fall to give the Brainerd Warriors one of the top doubles teams in the Central Lakes Conference and Section 8-2A. Entering Thursday's final regular-season home meet against Sartell, the Warrior duo is 22-3 and have helped their team to a 15-3 overall mark.

Warriors coach Lisa Salo said Rusk and Fletcher were paired this season because both had doubles experience, both had experienced doubles success and both possessed the knowledge to play doubles.

"As we started seeing results, watching them compete, how they communicated with each other, a trust factor developed between the two of them, and we knew this was a combination to keep and the results speak of that," Salo said. "Both can handle pressure really well.

"At No. 1 doubles, you get the top players from the other team and they're probably quite skilled at the net. You have to have a very good serve to set up your partner and be able to handle that pressure. These two gals are able to handle it."

Doubles all about chemistry

Fletcher is Rusk's third different doubles partner in her four varsity seasons. She teamed with graduates Hannah Moen and Jenna Swenson before this season.

"At the beginning, it was definitely different to adjust to different girls," Rusk said, "but it's actually taught me a lot, to learn through getting new partners by communicating, learning to get better at communicating."

In 2015, Rusk-Swenson finished fourth in the North Subsection 8-2A tournament. They lost their only section match to Taylor and Katelyn Tarrolly of St. Cloud Tech.

"They were good, they were competitive, we knew that going in, which made us stronger mentally for sure, and it was definitely something to look forward to and see where we wanted to be and to compete well," Rusk said.

Rusk said it was a career highlight Sept. 16 when she and Fletcher scored the Warriors' only victory against Class 2A's top-ranked St. Cloud Tech, beating the Tigers' Rebekah Zwiener-Anne Bowe 6-2, 6-4.

"It was a big relief because normally, in my past four years of varsity tennis, we went into three sets with them and a tiebreaker," Rusk said, "so it was nice beating them in two, not having to worry about a third set and that pressure on us."

Never having played singles, does Rusk every wonder what it would be like to play by herself?

"I think playing singles is definitely hard, you're by yourself, you don't have someone there supporting you," Rusk said. "Playing doubles it's nice to have that one person supporting me. I try to stay positive. I try to think about the good things rather than the bad."

Salo said Rusk wanted to make her senior year of tennis memorable. Finishing fourth in the subsection and advancing to the section made Rusk a better player.

"For Kennedy to end her junior year like that, she had set the bar higher for herself," Salo said. "This summer she worked on her game a lot. She wanted to do everything she could for the team to be successful and also for her individually to be successful."

Learning from losses

Fletcher-Rusk have only lost to doubles teams from Aitkin, Delano and Princeton.

"Those matches really made us better," Fletcher said. "They pushed us on our weaknesses and we just made a lot of errors that we learned from."

Fletcher said switching from singles to doubles was an adjustment and there's definitely a difference between the two.

"Doubles you have a bigger court. In singles, you need to make it in between the lines," she said. "That's definitely harder."

Fletcher said she and Rusk have developed good chemistry and try to compliment each other after every point.

"We always try to stay positive," Fletcher said. "I would say we're both good up at the net and setting each other up."

Salo said Fletcher strives to be the best she can be. Fletcher said she's working on improving her serve.

"I changed my serve so it's not really as consistently as strong as I would like," she said.

Salo said Fletcher worked a "ton" on her game in the offseason, seeking indoor hitting opportunities during the winter and is not intimidated by playing the No. 1 position.

"To her, pressure is a privilege," Salo said. "She has this passion to be the best she can be. She's extremely athletic. Her serve is becoming a weapon. She's got a natural service motion. It's become a weapon in placement and power. She sets up Kennedy big time at the net."

Other notable efforts:

• Julia Wallace & Katie Streiff, swimming, won two individual events and were on two winning relays vs. Rocori.

• Aden Davis, boys soccer, scored a hat trick vs. Fergus Falls.

• Ally Smith, girls soccer, scored a hat trick vs. Fergus Falls.

• Courtney Russell, volleyball, recorded 14 kills vs. Willmar.

• Will Peabody, football, rushed for 113 yards and a TD vs Sauk Rapids-Rice.

• Charlie Geraets, football, rushed for 146 yards and three TDs vs SRR.