Last week, the St. Peter girls tennis team lost two tough, close matches against Mankato East and Waseca. Tuesday, the Saints turned things around against New Ulm.
Coach Aaron Rothenberger noted, “We have another level we have yet to achieve as far as our abilities, being able to overcome some of those difficult matches against difficult teams, but we’re getting there. We’ve got players who have been really good about moving around in the lineup, adjusting between singles and doubles and with different doubles partners.”
While all players came out ahead against New Ulm, Rothenberger said some highlights came in No. 2 doubles with Milena Lund and Ella Boomgaarden, who were down 3-2 in the second set. “They turned up the level of their game. They did not want to play a close set and they won the next four games. I was very pleased to see that. It’s really encouraging for me, as a coach, that a couple of seniors out there can take control of the match from time to time.”
Lund and Boomgaarden defeated Ellie Wilker-Emily Guggisberg 6-0, 6-3.
For Rothenberger, watching an experienced and newer player — Lizzy Orth and Josie Wiebusch, No. 1 doubles — effectively work together proved another highlight.
“Whenever you put Lizzy in doubles, you know she’s going to bring her A game. I told Josie, to have a partner like that is like telling somebody, ‘we’re going to start off a basketball game with you up 15 points to 0.’ For younger players — Josie, this is her second year playing tennis — to be able to play No. 1 doubles is never easy when you’re just starting out, but Josie did a great job of elevating her game, because she knows she has a partner who already has a high game herself.”
Raina Roemhildt and Macy Weller played together for the first time at varsity No. 3 doubles, but have played as JV doubles partners the previous two years. Because of their experience together, Rothenberger wasn’t worried, but he did have some initial concerns about Weller’s fingers on her left hand, as she sustained an injury last week that kept her out of the Waseca match last week.
Rothenberger said he “felt confident enough that Macy could play there today, but we’ll play it by ear and hope she heals more and can get back to singles.”
Study abroad student Oyku Celik brought in a win at No. 3 singles after facing a 1-5 deficit in the second set. Rothenberger exclaimed, “She made an epic come back. Not often do you come back from 1-5, especially in a tough tiebreaker. She’s definitely a good tennis player, but she’s starting to figure this stuff out and she works the points better, grinds out points. She’s doing great, adjusting well, and it’s just a matter of time before she’s playing really well.”
Celik explained the differences between her set performances: “In the first set, I had great serves, so it was easy (to win), but in the second set, my serves got worse and my backhands were bad, but I made a comeback. I had to make safer serves and not push too hard.”
Celik beat Malia Emerson 6-2, 7-6 (4).
No. 1 singles Amelia Hildebrandt, No. 2 Emily Salfer, and No. 4 Annika Southworth also brought in big wins for the Saints.
The JV team continued to play well, Rothenberger noted, and he gives “credit to the coaching staff (coach Bob Messerli and coach Bridget Mathiowetz), and the JV players. It’s been a common theme with our full JV line-up; they just come out there and play really well. I’m hoping certain players continue to improve their game and try to separate themselves from other teammates and make decision-making easier for me next year. We have a whole lot of girls coming up that are hungry to play varsity next year.”
The Saints host River Valley 4:30 p.m. Thursday and then head to Mankato for a Quad tournament for both varsity and JV teams against Mankato West, Fairmont, and Blue Earth.
Rothenberger stated, “Blue Earth is a ranked team in Class A. They will be a challenge. It doesn’t count toward our conference record, but it’s something we look forward to. We want to play teams that force us to play better tennis. Fairmont is going to be a difficult match for us as well. If Mankato West is as good as Mankato East, it could be a challenge there, too. It could be an 0-3 day, or 3-0 day, or somewhere in-between. I think if we are playing our best tennis, we can play some matches well and win a few of these matches.”