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Senior Meredith Lawrence has been a member of the Visitation varsity since eighth grade. She plans to continue playing competitive tennis next season as a college freshman. Photo by Brent Lawrence

Meredith Lawrence vividly remembers her first high school tennis match.

She was an eighth-grader playing for Visitation and played in an exhibition contest against Hastings at Lakeville North. She was stationed on the end court and played an eight-game pro set, defeating her opponent 8-0.

"It was one of the most exciting times of my life. I worked so hard to make varsity," said Lawrence, who eventually worked her way into the fourth singles spot.

It started a memorable and decorated high school career. Lawrence has qualified for the state tournament four times, with the hopes of No. 5 on the horizon. She won the section singles title in her ninth-grade season and added section doubles titles in her sophomore and junior years, including a fourth-place finish in doubles at the state tournament last year.

Her mom, Deborah, played tennis in high school and college, but Meredith's love for tennis began in fourth grade, when she attended a summer camp program at Visitation.

"She came home and said, 'Gee, we played tennis today. Don't we have some tennis racquets around here?'" said Brent Lawrence, Meredith's father. "She and my wife started hitting a little bit, and eventually we decided she needed to learn from a professional instead of an amateur."

Meredith began training with the Saturday program at Fred Wells Tennis Center at Fort Snelling. She now works the front desk there about 14 hours every weekend. She acquired her Professional Tennis Registry coaching credentials this past May. She also volunteers there for the after-school programs.

"It's become my second home," Lawrence said of Fred Wells. "I owe everything to them because they've helped shape me as the kind of person and player that I am."

Lawrence is the top player on a talented Visitation team. In section singles play, she's the No. 3 seed behind Eagan's Danielle Donahue and Rosemount's Virginia Norder. Athletic and smart, she's a mentally strong player and creative shot maker. She's currently narrowing her college choices, which include Gustavus and Augustana, and planning to continue her tennis lifestyle.

After two years of doubles in the section tournament, Lawrence wanted to give the singles run another shot this season.

"For the last year, regardless of what happens, whether I go to state or whether I don't go to state, this section tournament is going to be a huge memory for me," she said. "I think it's just a good way to end everything."

The Blazers included a seventh-grader, two eighth-graders and a ninth-grader in their top-10 lineup this year. Lawrence tried to pass on her first varsity experiences.

"I met so many girls that just took me under their wing and helped me," she said of her first season. "This year as a senior, it's kind of been my role to be a leader in the group and to really make those younger kids feel part of the team, because that's how I felt."

Her season is not over yet -- she hopes it will end at the Baseline Tennis Center, host for the state tournament later this month -- but she's well aware that her time at Visitation is coming to a close.

"I'm ready to move on, I'm ready to go to college and have that new experience," Lawrene said. "But I've had so many terrific memories at Visitation. This whole year has provided a lot of closure, but it's going to be tough not going back and starting the high school season up. It's one of my favorite times of the year.

"I'm going to miss it a whole lot. It's kind of become my life."

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