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Girls Tennis: Stiff competition should have Warriors ready for postseason

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Warrior Kate Kurtzman returns the ball during practice recently on the Brainerd High School courts. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Girls Tennis

Head coach: Lisa Salo, 15th season (1985-92, 2013-19)

2018 finish: 6-1 in CLC, 19-3 overall

Assistant coaches: Chad Anderson, Bruce Thompson, Briana Rademacher

Managers: Tyler Schaitberger, RJ Campbell

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Returning members of section team: Kate Kurtzman, Lily Jones, Katherine Chaussee, Addie Sanford, Ally Goeden

By design, the path to the postseason will be much more difficult for the Brainerd Warriors this season.

The addition of teams like Foley, Hill-Murray, Big Lake, East Ridge to the schedule should have Brainerd prepared once the regular season ends.

“It was intentional,” Warrior head coach Lisa Salo said. “We knew the passion of these girls. We knew their desire to work on their games and they want to compete at the highest level they can. As a coaching staff we talk about strength of schedule so we thought, ‘let’s see what we can do.’

“The girls know our schedule will be tough and that’s by design. They are very willing to accept the challenge of whatever competition comes in.”

Junior Kate Kurtzman will move up one spot to the No. 1 singles slot. Playing No. 2 singles last season, Kurtzman finished 27-6 and placed third in the North Subsection 8-2A individual tournament. That moved her into the section tournament where she lost her only match.

“She’s ready for No. 1,” Salo said. “She knows there will be growth in that. She’s certainly ready to step into that role. She comes in with already a lot of experience because she started her varsity career as an eighth grader.

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“She’s had a lot of high-pressure matches already in her previous three seasons of varsity play. She was our third singles player as an eighth grader. We’re looking for her to lead from that No. 1 singles position.”

Also representing Brainerd in the subsection individual tournament was Lily Jones, who teamed with the graduated Jaycie Hinrichs.

“She played second doubles most of last year, and again, she’s one that gained so much experience in that doubles role. She’s an offseason worker. She worked on her game. All these girls have. That’s one of the common thread with all of these players is they put in a ton of time in the offseason. She’s improved her ground strokes and consistency.

“She is fearless so she loves to play the net and she is very quick. She can cover a ton of angles and doubles is a game of angles. She will lead our doubles girls.”

This season, Jones will be manning the No. 1 doubles spot, but who with is still an unknown. A few of the candidates include junior Kate Chaussee who saw action at No. 4 singles last season, but might be better suited for doubles play.

“She really gained a ton of experience in that role last year,” Salo said. “She’s one of those types of players who is cool, calm, poised and confident. She’s the type of player who uses experiences to make her stronger. We don’t know where she’s going to play. She could play singles or doubles and so we’ll figure out what is best for the team. She has skills sets that go both ways. She’s going to be on the top of our team and she’s ready for it.”

Senior Addie Sanford and junior Ally Goeden were part of the Warriors’ doubles rotation last season along with Jones. Both are contenders to team with Jones or continue as a doubles team themselves.

“Addie and Ally played No. 3 doubles together last year and they both gained a lot of experience last year,” Salo said. “That has set Addie up to be a leader on that doubles side. We’re going to need her leadership. She’s powerful. All of our girls are incredibly athletic. She packs a punch with her overheads and volleys. We’re just working on consistency and making correct choices.

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“Ally has a lot of doubles knowledge. She’s really understanding the game of doubles and we’re pushing her to develop just a little bit more touch and feel of the ball. She’s also one that we may experiment with in singles. I see her playing doubles, but the team knows we have different options.”

Also returning with varsity experience are junior Chloe Pecarich, sophomore Savannah Smith, sophomore Catherine Moraghan and senior Peyton McConkey.

“Chloe played a little bit of No. 3 doubles and four singles last year,” Salo said. “Chloe is another one of those players that could play doubles or singles, but she has really worked on the fluidity of her ground strokes. She’s developing a much more offensive game. But she loves the net. She loves to set herself up to get to the net.

“We want Savannah to develop and all-court game. I do see her playing more singles right now, but her net game has really improved.

“Catherine, out of anybody on the team, her weapon is her forehand ground stroke. It is very good. She builds points around her forehand.

“Peyton has improved her game and she brings so much positivity to this team. Her weapon is her serve, but she really worked on the consistency of it. She’s got a little more spin on it, too.”

A battle for the 10th spot on the varsity is heating up between six candidates. Those are junior Raleigh Mann, sophomores Lindsy Busch, Bryne Folden, Kylie Johnson, freshman Ella Chaussee and eighth grader Lila Collins.

“We’re going to figure out how good we are,” Salo said. “That’s the beauty of a season. We have a lot of depth and talent and that follows that tradition and history of tennis in our community. We also have a team that is looking to raise the bar. This team is not going to settle.”

Warrior roster

Seniors: Ava Thompson, Adelaide Sanford, Lexus Ruggles, Peyton McConkey, Keyahna Kurilla

Juniors: Kate Chaussee, Allyson Goeden, Lily Jones, Kate Kurtzman, Raleigh Mann, Chloe Pecarich

Sophomores: Avery Anakkala, Lindsy Busch, Natalie Feierabend, Brynne Folden, Kylie Johnson, Lucia Johnson, Carly Maine, Catherine Moraghan, Kaylee Oppelt, Allison Rice, Leana Ruggles, Taylor Ruhl, Savannah Smith

Freshmen: Paige Beyer, Rilee Borders, Ellie Brown, Breanna Burggraff, Ella Chaussee, Cassidy Grimsley, Taylor Harrington, Hannah Hayes, Cadence Hartwig, Nicole Heitkotter, Riley Schackman

Eighth-grader: Lila Collins

Warriors schedule

Tuesday, Aug. 20: hosts Foley, Hill-Murray 9 a.m.

Thursday, Aug. 22: at Delano Tournament 9 a.m.

Saturday, Aug. 24: hosts Big Lake, Hutchinson, Staples-Motley 9 a.m.

Monday, Aug. 25: hosts East Ridge, Minnewaska, Princeton 9 a.m.

Thursday, Aug. 29: hosts Rocori 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 3: hosts St. Cloud Tech 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 5: at Bemidji 4 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 7: hosts Warrior Invite 9 a.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 10: hosts Sartell 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 12: at Willmar 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 14: at Thief River Falls 10 a.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 17: hosts Alexandria 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 19: at St. Cloud Tech 4:30 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 23: hosts Willmar 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 26: hosts Apollo/Sauk Rapids 4:30 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 30: hosts Fergus Falls 4:30 p.m.

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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