September 22, 2011 at 9:12 a.m.
The Wildcats kept their perfect conference record in tact when they downed the Orioles pretty easily.
The only loss on the day came from Sammy Hindt, who played at first singles against a nationally ranked opponent.
At second singles, Kailee Carlson won in a dogfight, 7-5, 7-6 (7-1). With the confidence of the first set in her back pocket, she was able to come out loose in the tiebreak and really take it to the girl for the win. "Kailee really wanted to have a good showing this year, and she has just been ready to go since the beginning," Head Coach Corey McKinnon said of his second singles player who is 12-2 on the year. "She is just so consistent and won't let you beat her. Plus, she is just so coachable. She responds well on changeovers and will just key in on things that we teach to her."
At third singles, Ashley Paul, who is 11-5 on the year, dealt with a frustrating opponent, but in the end she came out on top. Her Oriole counterpart was a backboard, someone who just returns everything without much firepower on offense, but after a two and a half hour tilt, Paul ended up winning 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
"Ashley has been really good fundamentally for us this season. She's a high risk, high reward player, and I love having that in the middle singles," McKinnon explained. "She put so much in during the off-season and she loves to practice."
At fourth singles, sophomore Erica Ristow was under the weather, but that didn't stop her from cruising to a victory 6-3, 6-4.
Ristow, who is 12-4 on th year, is very mentally tough, according to McKinnon. "She's got a lot of competitve fight in her, and you have to have that at fourth singles. I really think she uses her basketball carryover and gets to a lot of balls that some girls wouldn't," he said.
However, McKinnon said the biggest difference in Ristow's game this year is that she's hitting the ball with more conviction and confidence than she did last year. "She's such a great asset to have on the team."
At first doubles Ali Mohr and Jaci Vitali blasted their Oriole counterparts 6-0, 6-3 as the first girls off the court with a win for Chisago Lakes.
"Those two girls bring a lot of experience together from last year," McKinnon said. Although last year, the squad was hovering around .500 playing first doubles together, this year, they are 12-4 on the year and have been mostly rolling through conference opponents. "These two have really stuck with my motto of having fun and improving. It's fun to watch how far they've come since last year," McKinnon stated. "Even early in the year, they were a little scrappy and not playing their best, but they were receptive to get their game to the next level, and it's made them that much stronger."
At second doubles, Maddie Howard and Ali Borgstrom won 7-6 (7-3), 6-1. McKinnon said that their victory in the tiebreaker was a huge confidence boost for them and that they were relaxed in the second set en route to the blowout win.
At third doubles, Amy Budde and Alison Gadbois breezed to a 6-2, 6-4 victory and the Wildcats came away with the 6-1 victory.
Benilde-St. Margaret's 5, Chisago Lakes 2
The Wildcats lost their unblemished record early this week when they dropped a match to the Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights.
At first singles, Hindt bounced back from her St. Louis Park loss to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a grueling two and a half hour set. There was a lot of long rallies in the match, and it was barely squeezed in before the fall darkness set in.
Hindt, who is 11-5 on the year, put in a ton of time in the off-season and has worked hard to improve throughout the season, McKinnon said. "She's been hitting all the time -- before school, after school, after practice, and it's really shown in her matches. She just wants to be a next level player."
McKinnon also noted that Hindt is just a competitive gamer. She doesn't care if she has to win ugly or if she has to work for every single point in the match, she has the mental edge to do it and it's a key asset for her.
Carlson took on a tough club player from BSM at second singles and stumbled 3-6, 1-6. Paul suffered a similar fate, playing a full-time player, as she lost 0-6, 1-6.
At fourth singles, Ristow had an up-and-down match that ended on a high note. She cruised in the first set, winning 6-1 and set herself up to win the match. But, she started to show signs of fatigue and being sick still when she lost the second set 4-6. But, in the third set, she just gutted out ther performance and won 7-5. "She's just a warrior," McKinnon said. "She may look like a cat, but she plays like a big lion on the court."
Doubles is where the match was decided, and unfortunately for the Wildcats, they came out with the short stick. Vitali and Mohr lost 4-6, 3-6, and although they were right with the BSM duo for most of the match, they were always just behind them, never able to take a lead or enjoy a break.
At second doubles, Howard and Borgstrom lost the first set 6-7 (2-7), 4-6. The toughest part about the match is that they were up 4-1 in the second set and looked to even it, but then lost five straight points to go down. "They just got tight, and you can't play tennis when you're tight," McKinnon said.
The loss was only their third on the season, as the pair is 13-3. "There is very little change as far as the lineup for these girls last year, but they've gotten a lot better at keeping the ball cross court and putting the ball down," McKinnon described. "Ali is phenomenal at the net and is very athletic while Maddie has put a lot of time into her game and the team's chemistry."
At third doubles, Budde and Gadbois won their first set 6-4, but then fell in the next two 5-7, 2-6. It was just a tough match for them, and McKinnon believes that if those two teams played each other 10 times, it'd be a 5-5 split. "They played some great matches, but the Benilde girls just got the key points when they needed to," he said.
Budde and Gadbois have made the big step up in competition this year with success. Budde has been 12-4 at the third doubles spot and Gadbois is 10-5, as they've mixed partners a few times. "They put a lot of time in during the off-season, but they both showed plenty of promise last year," McKinnon said. "Alison has some very nice ground strokes, and Amy is just fast at everything. She's a lot of fun and fits doubles tennis perfectly with her attitude and athleticism."
McKinnon also noted the play of his exhibition players, as they have done some fine work in pushing the other ladies. He especially wanted to commend Shannon Sullivan. Sullivan was the team's primary first singles player last year, but she had a rough start to the season after missing a good chunk of time because of a vacation. Despite moving from first singles down to exhibition, Sullivan has been a pure class act, according to McKinnon. "She is an A+ in my book. She shows up with a smile and a willingness to play and exemplifies a straight A attitude," he said. He also mentioned that Sullivan is starting to come back around to her top game and that she is fighting for a spot now, and doing it in the right way. "I can't tell people enough how proud I am of Shannon Sullivan," he said.
He also noted the exhibition doubles team of senior Amber Johnson and freshman Shelby Houfer has performed exceptionally well. Johnson is passing her knowledge down to Houfer, and McKinnon said it's been a great opportunity for Houfer to be mentored since Johnson carries herself very well and both have played a little varsity already.