ST. PETER - For the second consecutive season, the resurgent Fairmont Cardinal girls tennis program reached the Section 3A Team Meet's final four.
Unfortunately for first-year mentor Kathy Krezel's up-and-coming netters, the Cardinals faced perennial Class A state qualifer St. James for a second postseason in a row.
Legendary head coach Les Zellmann's Class A, No. 4-ranked Saints swept both singles and doubles brackets to eliminate the upset-minded Cardinals, 7-0, during Tuesday's Section 3A team semifinal clash at the Swanson Tennis Center in St. Peter.
LOCKED ON?TARGET — Fairmont third doubles player Andrea Carstensen locks on target before hitting a forehand return from the baseline during a Section 3A team tennis semifinal Tuesday at the Swanson Tennis Center in St. Peter. Photo by Charlie Sorrells
St. James (22-2), who went on to post a 7-0 triumph over or Luverne in the sectional team championship match, captured its incredible eighth straight state team bid. The Saints will face the Section 1 champion at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, in the state quarterfinals at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.
Fairmont ended its dual-meet season with a 10-6 record.
"I learned a lot about coaching this season and a lot about high school tennis overall," said Krezel. "I really enjoyed working with the girls, and I'm already thinking about things to work on for next season."
Unfortunately for the senior-less Cardinals, the highly-skilled veteran Saints proved too much to handle during Tuesday's sectional team semifinal clash.
Senior standout Aryn Eckstrom, who's the only South Central Conference player in the Class A individual state poll at the No. 7 spot, generated St. James' initial point via back-to-back shutout sets over junior Aubrey Green at No. 1 singles.
The Saints' senior tandem of Megan Lahti and Michaela Nelson produced the second team tally by downing Marina Rufli and Jill Paris at No. 2 doubles, 6-0, 6-3, before junior standout Lorena Hernandez outslugged Camilla Hermanrud at second singles, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5).
Senior Morgan Rankin and junior Hannah Christensen then sealed the Saints' dual-meet decision by fending off the challenge of Andrea Carstensen and Briana Gratz at third doubles, 6-2, 7-5.
Freshman Aubrey Eckstrom, the younger sibling of Aryn, then outlasted the Cardinals' Missy Viesselman in a fourth-singles battle, 6-3, 6-4.
Sophomore Julia Boeve held off Allison Moeller in a third-singles marathon, 7-5, 6-1, before the Saints' No. 1 doubles tandem of Michaela Nordby and Acacia Foss thwarted Sophie Shelgren and Abby Fitzgerald in a hard-hitting clash, 6-4, 6-3.
Now, two singles players and a pair of doubles teams will represent Fairmont during the next step of the postseason - the Section 3A Individual Meet, which delivers its first serves at 10 a.m. Thursday at Redwood Valley High School in Redwood Falls.
Section 3A Team Tennis
Meet - Semifinal
St. James 7, Fairmont 0
Singles: Aryn Eckstrom (SJ) d. Aubrey Green, 6-0, 6-0. Lorena Hernandez (SJ) d. Camilla Hermanrud, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5). Julia Boeve (SJ) d. Allison Moeller, 7-5, 6-1. Aubrey Eckstrom (SJ) d. Missy Viesselman, 6-3, 6-4.
Doubles: Michaela Nordby-Acacia Foss (SJ) d. Sophie Shelgren-Abby Fitzgerald, 6-4, 6-4. Megan Lahti-Michaela Nelson (SJ) d. Marina Rufli-Jill Paris, 6-0, 6-3. Morgan Rankin-Hannah Christensen (SJ) d. Andrea Carstensen-Briana Gratz, 6-2, 7-5.