Edina coach Steve Paulsen fist-bumped Nicole Copeland after the Hornets won the Class 2A team championship on Wednesday. Photo: RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER ¥ firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Paulsen leaned back against a tennis net, watching his Edina Hornets players being honored after winning the Class 2A girls’ tennis state championship with a 5-2 victory over No. 2-seeded Minnetonka.
Subtly, without drawing notice, he raised his left hand to his eyes, wiping away a gathering of tears.
This was it. After 28 years, after 23 state titles, including 19 in a row, after 608 victories, Paulsen was calling it quits.
And when his name was announced near the end of the awards ceremony, the usual polite applause rose to a roar in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments.
Minnetonka coach Dave Stearns said what most everyone at Baseline Tennis Center was thinking. “I’m really happy that he could go out this way,” Stearns said. “Obviously, I would have wanted our team to win, but I’m happy for him because he’s a really good guy.”
This was unusual territory. Paulsen is never one to call attention to himself, preferring to make his players the objects of attention. But this time, Paulsen admitted he spent time soaking in one last state tournament experience.
“It did hit me,” Paulsen admitted. “As you could see, I’ve been pretty emotional, but I also wanted to take it all in. There was a lot of lasts this year. Last practice, last outdoor practice, last match. Even today, when we weren’t playing, I sat on the side and tried to take it all in.”