Minnetonka's Bella Lambert returned a shot in the Class 2A singles championship match agains Edina's Sophia Reddy. Photo: Eric Kraushar, SW News Media
Bella Lambert of Minnetonka started with a 6-0 set Friday in the Class 2A singles championship match, and she secured the title with a 7-5 second set.
One played the best match of her life. The other, perhaps one of the worst.
For all of the analysis and game-planning, the biggest reason for Minnetonka junior Bella Lambert’s 6-0, 7-5 victory over Edina’s Sophia Reddy on Friday in the Class 2A singles final wasn't hard to pinpoint. Lambert was sharp. Reddy, admittedly, was not.
“Worst match I’ve played in a couple of years,” lamented Reddy, the tournament’s No. 1 seed. “An unbelievable amount of unforced errors. Probably more in that one match than I’ve had all season.”
It’s likely some of them were far from unforced. Lambert, a junior whose older sister Aria won back-to-back singles championships in 2008 and 2009, worked her game to perfection at Baseline Tennis Center. She stayed away from Reddy’s wicked backhand and made her opponent uncomfortable.
Lambert breezed through the first set 6-0, the first time a player had shut out an opponent in a set in a championship match since 2008. “She was in a zone,” said Aria, who, coincidentally, was the last player to win a set in the finals without losing a game.
Lambert agreed that it was the best tennis she’s played all season. “I would definitely say so.’’ she said. “I was on a roll, and I don’t think she was playing her best.”
Lambert parlayed her first-set dominance into a gritty effort in set two when Reddy rallied to take leads of 4-2 and 5-4.
“She stepped it up in the second set, but I just focused on what I needed to do to get the next point,” Lambert said.
Reddy said that, despite her ability to fight back in the second set, she never felt as if a comeback was in the works.
“I wasn’t feeling that good even when I was up 4-2, 5-4,” she said with eyebrows furrowed in bewilderment. “I didn’t have any momentum in my head because I was making so many errors. Even when I was winning, it wasn’t good tennis. I just happened to be winning.”
Down a game and not wanting to face a third set, Lambert refocused and won the last three games to win the match. After winning the final point, she didn’t leap in the air or cry out in delight. Instead, she strode purposefully to the changeover area and calmly shook Reddy’s hand before being mobbed by friends and teammates.
“It really hadn’t hit me,” said Lambert, who lost to Chanhassen’s Hayley Haakenstad in the 2015 finals. “It felt like I had beaten her in a regular match. I mean, it felt good but it took me a while to figure out what this all means.”
Lambert’s victory bumped the family total to three, definitely a source of pride.
“I used to put more pressure on myself, but I’ve realized I don’t have to do exactly what [Aria] did,” she said. “I can do my own thing. But it did motivate me a little bit more to try to win.”
Reddy, who has now lost two state finals and a semifinal match in her career, said her area of improvement was obvious.
“It’s to be more clutch,” she said candidly. “I know I have the game. I just did not bring it.”
Prior Lake takes doubles
Savanna Crowell and Taylor Jackson of Prior Lake outlasted St. Cloud Tech sisters Taylor and Katelyn Tarrolly 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to win the Class 2A doubles title, the first girls’ tennis championship for the Lakers.
Jim Paulsen • 612-673-7737