The St. Cloud Tech’s girls tennis team has a winning tradition, and this season’s Tigers are building on that tradition with a decidedly youthful lineup.
The young, talented Tigers just won their 22nd Central Lakes Conference girls tennis title, going undefeated in conference play.
And they did so with a freshman playing at No. 1 singles, an eighth-grader playing at No. 2, and a variety of other players making valuable contributions.
“We have an incredibly deep group of girls on the team,” Tech head coach Paul Bates said. “And we didn’t lose a lot of people last year, which has helped our team succeed this year with experience.”
Experience and youth. It’s a desirable combination, one that the Tigers hope will carry them far in the upcoming section playoffs — perhaps all the way back to the state tournament.
“As captains we set up goals with Coach Bates for the team, and our main goal is to make it back to state and play well,” said Leah Wurm, who along with Sarah Donnelly and Alexie Portz is one of Tech’s three senior co-captains.
“Other teams are out to get us, but we have a lot of confidence going into sections this year.”
Tech (15-4 overall) isn’t just winning this season, but winning easily. There isn’t a single 4-3 victory in the Tigers’ ledger, and a whole bunch of 7-0 shutouts.
“I’ve been really happy with our improvement this year,” Bates said. “We lost a couple close early matches to some really good teams from the cities (Wayzata, Minnetonka, Rochester Mayo) but are really in a groove right now.”
“We don’t let our conference success give us any pressure during the season,” Portz said. “We are super-driven by our past failures and want to make sure that is our main driving point.”
The Tigers’ failures this season have been few. Now, they’re preparing for section competition, which will feature challenges from teams like Bemidji, Brainerd and Monticello.
“We haven’t gotten the chance to see teams such as Bemidji yet,” Donnelly said, “which makes preparing a little more of a challenge.”
“There is still a part in everyone’s game that could help them be a little more successful,” Bates said. “We just need to hone in on that so we can be the tough section team.”
Tech’s seniors have played together since the seventh grade, but hadn’t advanced to state until last season.
“We had lost in sections every year until we beat Bemidji last year to go to state,” Portz said. “We’re motivated to live up to that expectation again this year.”
“I got a great group of senior girls who really get along, have good chemistry and portray a lot of experience to the other players,” Bates said.
The “other” players include freshman Taylor Tarrolly and her eighth-grade sister Katelyn Tarrolly, who will be keys if the Tigers are to achieve their playoff goals.
“The Tarrollys make up my No. 1 and No. 2 singles and are incredible athletes who have worked really hard at perfecting their game, in season and out of season,” Bates said.
The Tarrollys figure to be around for a while. So do most of Tech’s players: Only five of the 34 players on the Tigers’ varsity roster are seniors.
“I’ve got a great young group of girls,” Bates said, “and our future is looking like it will be a really successful one with such a young group.”
Bates is hoping his team can earn another section title and will get to play three matches at the state tournament.
“I continually remind them to improve,” he said. “I want to make sure they are constantly pushing each other in practice and in the games.”