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Blake wins third Class 1A girls tennis title in a row

By Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune, 10/25/17, 9:41PM CDT

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The Bears went wire-to-wire as the No. 1-ranked team in 1A. Their two losses were to Class 2A powers Edina and Wayzata.

Blake won its third consecutive Class 1A girls’ tennis team championship Wednesday, defeating Rochester Lourdes 6-1 in the semifinals and dispatching Holy Family 7-0 in the final.

No surprise there. The Bears went wire-to-wire as the No. 1-ranked team in 1A. Their two losses were to Class 2A powers Edina and Wayzata.

To the casual sports fan, it’s just another title for the small private school powerhouse. It’s Blake, after all. But the players holding those racquets and hitting those winners form a distinct team personality that requires a closer look to see.

“We have a few middle-schoolers on our team and they’re always excited and energetic,” said Blake senior Lainey Axell, putting a human face on the team. “It adds to the dynamic. There’s always a lot of laughter and a lot of fun, and it carries over onto the court.”

The Bears had plenty of their kind of fun Wednesday. They didn’t drop a set in the final. Axell won at No. 1 singles, defeating Sophie Lynch of Holy Family 6-4, 6-0, while Arlina Shen defeated Ally Agerland 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2. Axell is the top seed and Shen the second in the singles tournament, which begins Thursday.

Their youngsters — the future of the program — played well, too. Freshman Sonia Baig won 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3 singles while eighth-grader Bella Suk skunked her opponent at No. 4 singles.

That was likely Axell’s favorite part of the victory:

“For me, my favorite memory is just seeing the smiles on their faces every day. It’s always super light and everyone’s super funny, it always makes my day. I was that person six years ago. Now, it’s exciting to see what they’ll become.”

For Holy Family, the last team not named Blake to win a Class 1A championship, just getting to the final was a remarkable success.

“At the start of the season, we didn’t even know which 12 players we’d have,” Fire coach T.J. Garin said. “Getting this far, this is gravy.”

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