Two of the top four teams in the state battled for a state girls tennis tournament slot Wednesday.
Mounds View will be that team. The Mustangs fought off Mahtomedi 4-3 for the Section 4AA championship at the U of M’s Baseline Courts.
"No doubt about it, this was a state-tournament caliber match,” said Mahtomedi coach Aaron Freer. “We needed one more match to go our way, but today Mounds View had the edge and they deserve credit for that.”
Mahtomedi has been ranked No. 3 in the state since upending the Mustangs 5-2 at home Sept. 18. The Mustangs were ranked third then, and have been No. 4 since. Edina and Minnetonka are 1-2.
Mounds View won the rematch by loading up their doubles, which they swept.
“I knew, based on our previous match, we had to sweep doubles, and win three or four singles, to beat them, because they have two very strong singles players,” Mounds View coach Scott Sundstrom said. “I knew that with this lineup we could sweep doubles nine times out of 10.”
Sundstrom said he was also confident that 3- or 4-singles could win, which Katia Bartels did at No. 3.
The Mustangs — 15-3, with their other two losses against No. 1 Edina — advance to the state team tournament, for the second straight year, Oct. 22-24 at the U of M.
“It’s very exciting,” said Paige Trondson, senior co-captain and one of many holdovers from last year’s state third-place team.
“We definitely came out strong as a team, and we knew what to expect and how to attack them. We went doubles-strong this time.”
Mounds View put their top singles players in doubles, and Mahtomedi’s Lauren Splett and Annika Munson quickly picked up two singles points.
Mounds View quickly pulled even with wins by Bartels and Amanda Diao/Katerina Smiricinschi at 1-doubles.
Then, within 30 seconds of each other, the Trondson/Sanjana Pattanaik duo at No. 2, and Leah Bradt/Hannah Lindgren at No. 3, wrapped up straight-set victories and the Mustangs were state-bound.
They almost got a fifth point but Mahtomedi’s Mari Meger won 6-4, 1-6, 10-5 over Elena Bartels.
“Elena lost, but that match should give her confidence for state,” Sundstrom said. “Their girl (Meger) has not lost all year and she beat Edina’s 4-singles.”
Mahtomedi finished duals 17-3, their other losses coming against Edina and the other No. 1 team, Blake in Class 1A.
“I am so very proud of our team this year and it's an honor to be their coach,” Freer said.
“I think we fought hard. Some days you just aren’t as good as the other team,” said Splett, a junior who alternates at 1-2 with eighth-grader Munson and was at No. 1 for this match. “Yes, I’m disappointed, but Mounds View is a very good team, too. We beat them once and we lost to them today.”
Both Zephyrs will be contenders for state singles slots. An unbeaten Roseville player will be top-seeded. Singles and doubles will be held Thursday and next Wednesday.
“Oh, yes, ‘A-Money’ and I are going to go for it,” said Splett, using her nickname for her cohort.
Asked about the Sept. 18 loss to Mahtomedi, Sundstrom recounted that the Mustangs arrived late, did not warm up, dealt with 30 mph winds, and, of course, were facing a very good team on their courts. And they had the wrong lineup. “But I’m glad it happened,” he said, hearkening to what they learned from the loss.
The Mustangs have not settled on a lineup all year but that’s a plus for them.
“This team has no all-stars,” Sundstrom said, “but everyone can play where the team needs them to be successful.”
Mounds View 4, Mahtomedi 3
(1) Lauren Splett, Mah, def. Molly Austin 6-2, 6-2
(2) Annika Munson, Mah, def. Emma Sun 6-0, 6-0
(3) Katia Bartels, MV, def. Chloe Irvine 6-2, 6-2
(4) Mari Meger, Mah, def. Elena Bartels 6-4, 1-6, 10-5
(1) Amanda Diao/Katerina Smiricinschi, MV, def. Elena Carlson/Sarah Hoffman 6-1, 6-4
(2) Paige Trondson/Sanjana Pattanaik, MV, def. Liv Kent/Alayna Schwieters 6-2, 6-3
(3) Leah Bradt/Hannah Lindgren, MV, def. Hannah Bradt/Annika Hillstrom 7-6 (4), 6-1