Girls Tennis Brief — Acknowledging Their Various Accomplishments

Scott Sorensen, Staff Writer

The Minnetonka Girls Tennis team is on a roll this season. Well, they have been on a roll for a couple seasons. Wait, they have been good for how long?

The Minnetonka varsity team has not lost a match in two years. They have gone undefeated this season (17-0) and are currently the favorite to win State. In the first round of the 2021 Sectional Tournament, the girls trounced Waconia without breaking a sweat, winning every single game they played. Seven matches, fourteen sets, eighty-four games—all of them victories. As if that were not incredible enough, the Skippers went on to crush Chanhassen on October 7 in the second round of the tournament, dropping just three games.

As previously alluded to, however, this success is anything but new. In 2018 and 2019, the Skippers were the runner-up in the Class 2A State Tournament. In 2019, Annika Elvestrom, ‘22, and Sarah Shabaz, ‘23, won the doubles team state title. The following year, the girls went undefeated (see a pattern yet?) with a 14-0 record and looked like the favorite to win State until COVID caused the tournament to be cancelled.

Shabaz, ranked as the second-best tennis player in Minnesota, holds up the girls’ singles portion of the team while Annika (#4 in the state) and Karina Elvestrom, ‘22 and ‘24, respectively, lead the doubles teams. Kelsey Phillips, ‘23, #6 in Minnesota, also competes in the doubles section. With three individuals in the top ten players in the state, the Skippers clearly bring a dominating presence to their matches.

The Skippers excel at a variety of factors in competition, the most prominent one being their aggression. Quickly moving up the court, the girls have no fear in high-pressure situations and nab any points made available to them.

“[We] really try to win the match, not have them lose the match to us,” said Isabelle Strohm, ‘23, a member of the girls’ Sections team.

Additionally, a positive team dynamic and great friendships on the team lend warmth to the competitive atmosphere. From across campus, one can hear the Skippers cheering each other on during a tight match. To further develop the outstanding play seen on the court, many of the girls play USTA tournaments and receive coaching during the offseason.

All the girls’ success, however, comes with a twist of melancholy. Dave Stearns, coach of Skippers’ tennis teams for 33 years (27 of which were spent with the girls’ team), passed away on December 12, 2020 at age 72.

“He was a legend,” said Minnetonka Activities Director Ted Schultz.

After the cancelled state tournament of 2020 (which the Skippers believe they would have won had it been played), the loss of Coach Stearns’ fueled an already victorious team. On the girls’ tennis sweatshirts this year, Stearns’ initials are etched on one arm. Even with his weighty absence, the Skippers fight with him.

Coach Stearns’ successor, Brent Lundell, entered an arena accustomed to having a titan at the helm. Despite the pressure, though, Lundell has evidently done well.

“Coach Lundell had big shoes to fill, and I think he’s doing a really great job filling them,” said Strohm.

In their quest to prove what they could not last season, the girls will play in the Class 2A State Tournament from October 26-29. Be there, and students might just get to witness the realization of a dream a long time in the making.