Carstensen-Gratz: A winning combo

Fairmont Undefeated. Typically something that players and coaches avoid talking about, hoping to avoid jinxing their luck.

For Fairmont’s senior third doubles duo, Briana Gratz and Andrea Carstensen, their 10-0 seasonal record isn’t something that they shy away from. In fact, they feel confident the streak can continue in the coming weeks.

“During matches and games, I always want to know what the score is and how many more games or points we need to win,” said Carstensen.

“And she’ll try to tell me and I don’t want to know. I just want to focus on the next point and the next game,” said Gratz.

“With the win streak, I think it’s always in the back shadow of our minds, but we focus on our matches and talk about the points so that we have a strategy,” said Carstensen. “There isn’t really pressure on us, but so far, it’s been fun.”

This season isn’t the first time that the seniors have teamed up on the court, but knowing it is their last year to play together is pushing Gratz and Carstensen to play at their best.

“All of us seniors started playing tennis for the CER (Community Education and Recreation) league when we were in second grade with (assistant coach) Eric (Johnson) coaching,” said Gratz. “When you are younger, all you play is doubles and so we’ve always liked it better than singles.”

“We played together over the years, and then last year when we were changing things up and seeing who played best together,” said Carstensen. “So we had played together when we were younger and most of last season. We really like playing together.”

Along with combining to win their first 10 matches, the Cardinals have only gone to a third set in three of their matches thus far this season.

“I think we play well together because what one of us does really well, the other struggles with, and the other way around, too,” said Gratz. “Like I have a really good backhand and always serve into the sun, but Andrea has a better forehand and serves on the other side.”

In addition to their bias towards doubles, the senior tandem also shares a similar history with knee injuries.

“I tore my MCL (medial collateral ligament) my freshman year. They couldn’t do surgery on it, so I did physical therapy to try and get back,” said Carstensen. “But I missed a whole year of tennis in the time that it took.”

“For me, it was my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). I tore it during gymnastics last winter and had surgery and had rehab. I graduated from therapy right before the season started,” said Gratz. “It is actually really nice to have a partner who went through a similar thing. We are both really cautious about each other and making sure that if it looks like something is wrong, we check with each other.”

The communication doesn’t stop with their concern for Fairmont’s third doubles team, the two seniors also have their own set of signals and phrases for each other to form strategies to beat their opponents.

“We talk about all kinds of things during our matches. In between points we talk about what we are going to try and do the next point so that we know where the ball is going. But we talk about all kinds of random things, too,” said Gratz. “We have our own code words for things, that no one knows and it’s just fun to play together.”

The duo will try to continue at this weekend’s Mankato West Invitational what has been an excellent start to their final season on the tennis courts.

“I think with both of our injuries it has just made us appreciate playing so much more,” said Carstensen. “We know what it’s like to have to sit and watch and that’s not fun. It’s also our last year, too, so we are really just playing hard and want to do well to end our careers with our best season.”