ST. PETER - Nine in a row.
St. James mentor Les Zellmann and his Class A, No. 3-ranked Saints swept the singles bracket to help pace a 6-1 victory over the upset-minded Fairmont Cardinals in the Section 3 team girls tennis championship showdown on Wednesday in St. Peter.
St. James (22-1) will make its ninth consecutive appearance in the Class A state team meet, squaring off against the Section 7 champion in a 10 a.m. quarterfinal clash on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.
SERVE — Fairmont third doubles player Andrea Carstensen delivers a serve during Section 3A team tennis playoff action Wednesday at the Swanson Tennis Center in St. Peter. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)
VOLLEY — Fairmont third doubles netter Briana Gratz moves forward to hammer a return during sectional team tennis play Wednesday on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus in St. Peter. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)
Second-year Fairmont head coach Kathy Krezel's Cardinals closed out the team portion of the fall campaign with a 16-4 record - the most dual-meet victories for the program since 1995.
"I'm very proud of every player on this team for what they've accomplished this season," said Krezel, who guided the Cardinals to their second sectional championship finals over the last three years.
Fairmont reached the sectional team semifinals a year ago after former coach Jeff Nauman helped engineer the red-and-white's sectional runner-up showing in 2011.
"I thought the girls put together a great season, especially when you consider that three of our four losses were to two teams who qualified for state," Krezel said in reference to a pair of 6-1 defeats at the rackets of St. James and a 4-3 loss to Section 2 team champion United South Central.
Ironically, for the second time in three seasons, the Section 3 championship meet proved a battle between two South Central Conference rivals.
St. James, the 2012 Class A state team consolation champion, generated a 6-1 semifinal victory over Luverne, while Fairmont produced a 5-2 semifinal decision over Montevideo to reach the medal round at the Swanson Tennis Center on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus in St. Peter.
Zellmann's Saints built an early 2-0 edge over the vastly-improved Cardinals in the team ledger via strong play from both senior Taylor Nordhausen at fourth singles and junior Julia Boeve at the No. 2 singles spot.
Nordhausen netted back-to-back love sets over sophomore Ellie Tonder to tally St. James' initial team tally before Boeve downed senior Missy Viesselman in straight 6-1 sets.
Anna Haler and Hannah Christensen tacked on Point 3 for the Saints about 20 minutes later by posting a 6-1, 6-2 win over Jill Paris and Shantel Quist at second doubles.
Ironically, sophomore Aubrey Eckstrom followed in her stately siblings' footsteps by delivering the meet-clinching point for St. James. Eckstrom netted a 6-3, 6-2 hard-fought win over Fairmont senior left-hander Allison Moeller at third singles.
The first doubles tandem of Acacia Foss and Ashley Frederickson then fended off hard-charging opponents Sophie Shelgren and Abby Fitzgerald in a three-set clash at No. 1 doubles.
Foss and Frederickson outdueled Shelgren and Fitzgerald to claim a 6-3 first-set decision, but the Fairmont duo broke early in the second set and never trailed. Shelgren and Fitzgerald pounded out a 6-4 second-set decision to force a decisive third frame.
Despite Shelgren and Fitzgerald's late comeback bid, Foss and Frederickson produced Point 5 via a 6-2 third-set victory.
The senior combination of Briana Gratz and Andrea Carstensen then spoiled the Saints' shutout bid by outlasting Alejandra Trapero and Morgan Sandmeyer in a third doubles marathon.
Gratz and Carstensen captured a 7-4 win in the opening set's tiebreaker, but Trapero and Sandmeyer reversed the trend by squeezing by the Cardinals' tandem in a second-set tiebreaker, 8-6.
With the dual meet already decided, the pair of No. 3 doubles teams squared off in a super tiebreaker, with Gratz and Carstensen garnering a 10-7 victory to net the team point for Fairmont.
Lorena Hernandez then capped the Saints' decision by defeating Aubrey Green at first singles, 6-4, 6-0.
Green and her five fellow senior teammates, however, all delivered victories during the Cardinals' semifinal win over Montevideo earlier Wednesday.
Green posted a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Kailey Maroney at No. 1 singles, Viesselman exited the Swanson Tennis Center court first with a 6-0, 6-0 shutout over Morgan Reidinger at the second spot in the lineup, while Moeller chalked up a 6-1, 6-2 decision over Ashley Hoehne at third singles.
Gratz and Carstensen, who lost only one match all season, posted a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Montevideo's Avery Koosmann and Natasha Smith at third doubles, while Paris joined forces with junior Shantel Quist to net a 6-4, 6-2 win over Mikaela Erickson and Jessa Kack at the No. 2 doubles spot.
The Thunderhawks' Nicole Erickson and Macy Peters outslugged Shelgren and Fitzgerald, 6-2, 3-6, (10-8), at first doubles, while Montevideo's Tina Lipinski outdueled Tonder, 6-3, 6-1, at fourth singles.
Fairmont, St. James, Martin County West and the rest of the Section 3A tennis field return to action at 10:30 a.m. today in the sectional individual tournament in Redwood Falls. Each team will be represented by two singles players and a pair of doubles teams.
The Section 3A individual semifinals, finals and true-second matches will be held Monday at the Swanson Tennis Center in St. Peter. Semifinal action will begin at 9 a.m. Monday.
2013 SECTION 2A GIRLS
TENNIS TEAM TOURNEY
St. James 6, Fairmont 1
Singles: Lorena Hernandez (SJ) d. Aubrey Green, 6-4, 6-0. Julia Boeve (SJ) d. Missy Viesselman, 6-1, 6-1. Aubrey Eckstrom (SJ) d. Allison Moeller, 6-3, 6-2. Taylor Nordhausen (SJ) d. Ellie Tonder, 6-0, 6-0.
Doubles: Acacia Foss-Ashley Frederickson (SJ) d. Sophie Shelgren-Abby Fitzgerald, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Anna Haler-Hannah Christensen (SJ) d. Jill Paris-Shantel Quist, 6-1, 6-2. Briana Gratz-Andrea Carstensen (F) d. Alejandra Trapero-Morgan Sandmeyer, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (6-8), (10-7).
Fairmont 5, Montevideo 2
Singles: Aubrey Green (F) d. Kailey Maroney, 6-3, 6-1. Missy Viesselman (F) d. Morgan Reidinger, 6-0, 6-0. Allison Moeller (F) d. Ashley Hoehne, 6-1, 6-2. Tina Lipinski (M) d. Ellie Tonder, 6-3, 6-1.
Doubles: Nicole Erickson-Macy Peters (M) d. Sophie Shelgren-Abby Fitzgerald, 6-2, 3-6, (10-8). Jill Paris-Shantel Quist (F) d. Mikaela Erickson-Jessa Kack, 6-4, 6-2. Briana Gratz-Andrea Carstensen (F) d. Avery Koosmann-Natasha Smith, 6-4, 6-0.