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home : sports : sports November 24, 2015

10/4/2012 9:47:00 AM
'Cats drop conference title to Benilde 5-2
Shelby Houfer uses her length and hand-eye coordination to keep foes off balance at second doubles.
Shelby Houfer uses her length and hand-eye coordination to keep foes off balance at second doubles.

Last week was a twister of emotion for the Chisago Lakes girls tennis team. They went from beating a good, strong team in Champlin Park on Wednesday to losing the their conference championship showdown with Benilde-St. Margaret’s on the next day. Chisago Lakes 6, Champlin Park 1 The Wildcats figured they were going to have a tough time in their preamble to the North Suburban Conference championship match when they took on the Rebels of Champlin Park. They were 12-4 on the season and had beaten Elk River earlier in the year, considered to be one of the favorites in CL’s Section 7AA this year. It was anything but close once the Wildcats got through with the Rebels. Chisago won by a tally of 6-1, and most of the games weren’t even close. Sammy Hindt won at first singles 6-2, 6-0. Erica Ristow went down early in her first set, but was able to make some adjustments on a changeover and really come out firing. She ended up winning 6-4, 6-1. Amy Budde won 6-3, 6-4 at third singles, and Chisago’s only loss came from Izzy Hindt at fourth singles. “Izzy played a savvy seniors that forced her into mistakes,” Head Coach Corey McKinnon said. “It’s tough to ask anyone, much less a first year varsity player, to always be on her ‘A’ game, and Izzy just didn’t have it against Champlin.”

Jaci Vitali and Maddie Howard won by default at first doubles. They had won the first set 7-6 (7-2) and were ahead in the second set 4-3 when one of the Champlin Park players had to withdraw to make it to an academic banquet. Shelby Houfer and Allison Gadbois won 6-4, 6-4, and so did Savanna Stendahl and Katie Jennissen. Despite Champlin Park being twice the size of Chisago Lakes, that didn’t matter to the 10 on the court. “I want the girls to be able to stand on the court against anyone, including big time schools with big time players,” McKinnon said. “With the numbers in our program, I just don’t see ourselves as a small school.” Benilde-St. Margaret’s 5, Chisago Lakes 2 “This was obviously a big match and was going to be a fight for the title,” McKinnon said. “But, I didn’t want this match, win or loss, to be our identity as a team. This was just a small part of the big picture and the whole process is bigger than this match.” McKinnon conveyed that mantra to his girls before the match, and he felt that actually let them play a little better and not so uptight. Still, it wasn’t enough to topple the mighty Red Knights. The insanely young BSM lineup had pitfalls all over, beginning with first singles. Sammy Hindt lost 6-0, 6-2 to a freshman. Ristow lost 6-3, 6-3 to a seventh grader and Budde lost 6-2, 6-2 to an eighth grader. Izzy Hindt played the lone senior on the BSM squad, and she was the lone singles win, taking the match 6-2, 6-4. “Izzy really turned it around from Wednesday,” McKinnon noted. “She did a nice job and just played her game.” Vitali and Howard dropped their first doubles match 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, but McKinnon felt it was the best the pair had played all year.

“They left it all on the line and it was just an absolute battle,” he said. “Even near the end, when this was the last match and the team score had already been decided, Jaci and Maddie fought off at least five match points before going down.” The pair that Vitali and Howard played were a junior and a freshman. Houfer and Gadbois were the Wildcats other point on the day, winning 6-4. 6-2 over a seventh and ninth grader. “They played a solid match together,” McKinnon said of the tandem that moved to 14-1 on the season with the victory. “With Allison’s deadly backhand and Shelby’s height and hand-eye coordination, these two have been tough all year.” Stendahl and Jennissen, playing a sophomore and junior, lost 6-1, 6-0. “They just ran into a good team and both girls felt they got pushed off the court,” McKinnon said. “I told the girls ‘If you did everything you could and accomplished your goals, there’s nothing you can do except tip your hat to them and clap your racquet.” Chisago Lakes 4, Spring Lake Park 3 The Wildcats bounced back by winning their NSC finale on the year over Spring Lake Park in what turned out to be closer than most expected.

McKinnon figured the team would go double heavy, and they did. They were hoping to sweep the doubles and just clip a singles point somewhere down the lineup. The doubles sweep was effective for them. Vitali and Howard lost 6-2, 6-1 to a very talented SLP first doubles duo. At second doubles, Houfer and Gadbois lost 7-5, 6-3. “They showed improvement since the last time they played them,” said McKinnon. “They played in a tournament earlier this year and the matches weren’t close. The girls were in it this time, but the SLP team just played tough.” At third doubles, Stendahl and Jennissen lost 3-6, 6-3, 3-6. Whoever got up early in that match won the set, so it was really a battle of wills early in each set. Obviously, the Panther pair got off to that fast start in the third set after they had split the first two and they finished the match and the doubles sweep. At singles, Izzy Hindt and Budde were off the court quickly with wins. Hindt won 6-2, 6-2 and Budde won 6-2, 6-3. Sammy Hindt was the next off the court, but it wasn’t without a close call near the end.

She won 6-3, 7-6 (7-5). Just as she was finishing her opponent and shaking hands, Chisago Lakes was starting to feel like the match was theirs with the remaining point. At second singles, Ristow had dropped the first set 4-6, only to rebound and win the second set 6-4. “I think Erica just put too much pressure on herself early in the match,” McKinnon said. “She had beat her opponent in a tournament earlier this year, and I think she thought she had this one too.” In the third set, right when Sammy Hindt had finished her match and tied the score at 3-3, Ristow pulled ahead 4-1 in her third set. She eventually closed out the match and the team victory with a 6-1 win in the third set.

“Good players adapt,” McKinnon said after Ristow went from losing the first set and down in the second set to running over her opponent in the third set. “If the it’s not there, you gotta fold ‘em and get a new deck of cards, and she did,” McKinnon also wanted to give special note to his exhibition doubles team of sophomore Katelyn Sargeant and senior Anika Hansen. The pair went 12-5 on the year and McKinnon said their position is just as important to the team as any other. “Not just because of potential injury but because of building a ladder of development,” he said. “We need depth, and to have those two girls really deepens our team. We are a 12 player varsity team, and these girls have kept an awesome attitude all year.”

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