Four area girls’ tennis players reached their respective state tournaments, including a pair of top singles players – Andover’s Faith Lee and Blaine’s Mary Liz Swanson, along with Andover’s junior doubles team of Destiny Lee and Alissa Kuebelbeck.
Faith, the older by a year of the Lee sisters, finished the regular season ranked No. 5 and entered state as the defending consolation champion. She began with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win over fourth-seeded Wayzata sophomore Kelly Yang.
First-year Andover head coach Eric Bertram said Faith simply outworked her Wayzata counterpart after a tough second set to move on. “[Faith] was down early in the third set and battled back, showing her toughness and composure,” Bertram said.
Next up was Helen Klass-Warch, a St. Paul Central junior. Faith, just as the Huskies football team did days earlier, handed the Central junior a 7-6(3), 6-3 defeat to conclude the first of two tournament days.
Her run toward a state individual title came to an end in the semifinals with a three-set loss to Mounds View’s top-seeded junior Samantha Brills 7-5, 3-6, 6-2. The loss relegated Faith, a four-time state entrant, to the third-place match where she defeated Stillwater’s Natalie Phippen 6-2, 6-1 Oct. 26.
Bertram categorized the third-place match as less eventful, but more routine for Faith, who wanted to finish on a high note. “She hit the ball more aggressively that in her semi-final match and dominated from the outset,” he said.
Faith, who plans to play under scholarship next season at the University of North Dakota, came into state with three losses all season and finished her season with a 28-4 record.
“Knowing [Faith], her goal was likely to win state, even though she wasn’t seeded in the top eight,” Bertram said as she continued to develop her consistency with certain shots and added some variety to her game this season. “She could make any shot in the book. She also has unbelievable movement and court coverage so her opponents were unable to get anything free, putting a great deal of pressure on them.
“Faith is very humble and is as good a person as a player and that shows on and off the court.”
Destiny and Kuebelbeck won their first-round match against Minnetonka’s Bri Smith and Theresa Tebon in two tie breakers, 7-6(4), 7-6(1) to reach the quarterfinals. They lost to fellow Northwest Suburban Conference foes who won their section tournament – Centennial’s Kely Jachymowski and Courtney Klair 6-4, 7-6(3) to end their run at state.
The Huskies pair came together for sections after playing second and third singles, respectively all season, and rode the success into state.
“They were tested in sections by an exceptional Forest Lake team in straight sets after winning the first five games,” Bertram said. “So to bounce back from that difficult loss was an unbelievable accomplishment.”
The first round win over Minnetonka was an equally impressive achievement, he said. “That Minnetonka match was a huge accomplishment as its team included the best doubles player and best singles player for the second ranked team in state,” Bertram said.
Winning their first match, just like Faith, assured the duo of All-State honors.
Swanson wasn’t so lucky as she lost both of her matches. First was a 7-5, 6-4 loss to Elk River senior Michaela Schulz 7-5, 6-4 to relegate Swanson to the consolation bracket where she dropped a 6-2, 7-5 result to Rochester Mayo sophomore Kylie Boyer.
Jason Olson is at [email protected]