Mahtomedi's Emily Fraser and Lauren Splett, right, celebrated their 6-0, 6-2 No. 2 doubles match win over Eagan (Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune)
The day for which coach Kathy Alex had prepared her team broke with a victory over the 19-time defending state champion and ended with the first state championship in team history.
Suffice to say, Wednesday was a very good day for the Mahtomedi girls’ tennis team.
The Zephyrs ended Edina’s run of 19 consecutive state titles with a stunning 4-3 victory in the Class 2A team semifinals, then regrouped and cruised past Eagan 5-2 in the finals, completing a memorable season of realization.
“I didn’t tell them the goal was to win state, even though it was,” said Alex, a former WTA Tour player who is in her first year as Mahtomedi coach. “I knew how good this team was, but I wanted to keep the pressure off. It was all about this one day. This one day was all the mattered.”
The Zephyrs conditioned as they never had before, with endless sprints and on-court drills. That paid off during the season as they were forced to play much of the year without two of their top four singles players, juniors Olivia Paradise and Anna Stutz. Both missed much of the year because of injuries, allowing others — like the Riermann sisters, Maggie and Grace — to shine. When Paradise and Stutz returned, Mahtomedi was primed for success.
“We had lost to Edina twice during the season,” Alex said. “Once, we lost 5-2 when we didn’t have Olivia and Anna. The next time, it was 4-3 and we didn’t have Olivia, but we were beaming. We knew when we got her back, we could beat them.”
After Wednesday’s monumental victory over the Hornets, they relaxed and played confident tennis in the finals, getting four victories within the first hour of play to clinch the match.
Senior captain Emily Cooper, who paired with Erin Hoffman at No. 1 doubles, had one word for the Zephyrs’ championship day.
“Tiring,” she said with a laugh. “Definitely tiring. We worked hard and we’ve wanted this for a long, long time. It’s unbelievable. The adrenaline of the entire day, it’s amazing. This is an experience I’ll remember for my entire life and I’m so happy for it. As great as it was to beat Edina, winning the state championship was the ultimate goal.”
Junior Lexi Harrod had battled more than just her opponents Wednesday. She and No. 3 doubles teammate Sarah Hoffman had survived two match points against Edina before going on to win their match.
“We told ourselves it was our time,” Harrod said. “We wanted it more.”
She then had to find a way to staunch the flow from a bloody nose that almost ended her day before the finals. It stopped gushing in time to join Hoffman for another victory in the finals.
“It wasn’t going to stop me. This is literally what I think about every night when I go to bed,” she said. “It’s what we’ve been working for since eighth grade. It’s unreal. I still can’t process it.”
Jim Paulsen • 612-673-7737