Mike Ach would love to say that Blake’s fourth consecutive Class 1A team championship, which it won by defeating Rochester Lourdes in the semifinals and Litchfield in the final by identical 7-0 scores, was all part of his master plan.
The Blake coach did have a part in it, setting up the toughest schedule possible, but he says the heavy lifting was done by the players.
“All season, we just kept getting better and better,” Ach said after his team’s two victories Wednesday at Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center in Minneapolis. “If you’re asking if we were trying to peak at the right time, I would love to say yes, but I think it’s more the schedule we play and that the team really buys in.”
Among the teams the Bears defeated on their run to another state title were Class 2A tournament entrants Wayzata, Mounds View and Edina — the big school champion with whom they split two matches. A tough slate, to be sure, but Ach said his players wouldn’t have it any other way.
“They love the tough schedule,” he said. “Because they have a target on their backs, the girls feel pressure. They accept it, and they work their way through because they know it makes them better.”
Leading the way was junior Arlina Shen, the No. 1-ranked singles player in Class 1A all season. Shen lost just three games in three state tournament matches, setting the tone for the Bears.
“She’s a great role model,” Ach said. “She’s such a competitor. She leads by example and that’s a great asset to have.”
Ach was impressed by what his team accomplished.
“We’ve got some pretty young players,” he said. “To see them keep elevating their game all season, I’m just so happy for them.”