Area netters set for state meet

FAIRMONT – The last time the Fairmont girls tennis program had any players qualify for the state individual meet, Cardinal seniors Allison Moeller, Missy Viesselman and Aubrey Green were not even born.

“This is only my second year of coaching here, but I know it’s been quite some time since any Fairmont tennis player had advanced to state – until now,” said Fairmont mentor Kathy Krezel, who was named Section 3A coach of the year last week.

Indeed. Fairmont not only won the Section 2AA team crown in 1994, but achieved the unthinkable by sweeping all four individual state bids.

Senior Jaime Abel, who went on to play Division I hockey at Brown University, and senior Sara Kunkel captured one doubles berth for the Cardinals 19 seasons ago, while the senior duo of Michelle Musser and Emily Donnelly combined court skills to also qualify for state.

Fairmont sophomore Katie Reber and senior Katie Link swept the top two sectional singles spots, respectively, with Reber eventually capturing a fourth-place Class AA state medal.

Nearly two decades later, Moeller and the Viesselman-Green combination will look to make more Fairmont athletic history when the trio joins Blue Earth Area junior singles player Karleigh Wolff at the Class A state individual meet on Thursday at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.

Wolff will face Staples-Motley senior Mikayla Wing, who was ranked No. 7 in the final state rankings, in one of eight 8 a.m. first-round matches, while Moeller makes her state debut by playing No. 4-seeded Abby Kantor of Foley. Kantor, who held the No. 4 spot in the final coaches’ poll, and Wing represent two of the seven returning state qualifiers in this fall’s singles tournament.

“Alli drew a tough opponent in her first match, but she beat a couple of players seeded higher than her in the section meet, so we’ll see how it goes,” said Krezel.

Ironically, Moeller and Wolff – who are South Central Conference rivals – could square off at the Minneapolis tennis facility in second-round action.

No. 1-ranked and defending state champion Sonya Das of the St. Paul Academy and Summit School opens Thursday’s action against Trinity School at River Ridge senior Jenny Mulvey, while a pair of returning state qualifiers – Providence Academy senior Eva Sullivan and Osakis senior Taylor Kraemer – battle in first-round action opposite of Das.

Eva Sullivan, who won the Class A state doubles championship with her sister Elena in 2011, was No. 8 in the final rankings.

In the lower half of the singles bracket, No. 3-ranked and No. 2-seeded Sofia Terzic of Rochester Lourdes – who placed third in singles at state a year ago – opens against No. 9-ranked Danielle Gannon of Holy Family Catholic, while St. James senior Lorena Hernandez faces Park Rapids freshman Julia Smith.

United South Central senior Claire Christian, a returning state qualifier, takes on Aitkin sophomore Claire Browning, while No. 3-seeded Lauren Kozikowski – a freshman from the Breck School – faces Sauk Centre senior Bethany Ellis.

In Class A first-round state doubles action at 10 a.m. Thursday, Fairmont’s Viesselman and Green open play against Park Rapids’ Christina Smith and Julia Renner – one of four state doubles teams returning intact from 2012. Smith and Renner placed fourth at state last fall.

“While the singles bracket is seeded, the doubles bracket is a lottery system – you play who they (the Minnesota State High School League tournament directors) draw,” said Krezel. “Missy and Aubrey have really enjoyed the opportunity to play doubles together, and they’re hoping to do their best at state, no matter who they face.”

Minnewaska’s Rachel Riley and Makenna Hanson, another returning state doubles qualifier, face Waseca’s Katie Tlusty and Anna Hoehn in first-round action opposite of Green and Viesselman’s match.

“Just like Alli’s potential second-round match against Karleigh Wolff, it’s ironic that Missy and Aubrey could play a conference opponent in the second round at state,” said Krezel.

In the top half of Green and Viesselman’s bracket, Virginia’s Taylor Gunderson and Brylee Seitz face Breck’s Grace Zumwinkle and Kendall Kozikowski. Gunderson and Seitz return to state after earning bronze medals in the doubles bracket last fall.

USC’s Linsey Thisius and Kia Legred play Litchfield’s Kennedy Sommerfeld and Kalley Spreiter in the match opposite of Gunderson and Seitz.

In the lower half of the doubles bracket, Breck’s Patricia Zhao and Sunny Tang – who were ranked No. 2 and 3, respectively, in the final state poll – face Jordan’s Lydia Read and Rachel Menke, while Providence Academy’s Lauren Athmann and Claire Carney play Staples-Motley’s Kelsey Zetah and Nikki Edin.

Rochester Lourdes’ Jessica Alexander and Rachel Kamath return intact to face St. James’ Aubrey Eckstrom and Julia Boeve in first-round action, while Eveleth-Gilbert’s Katelyn Rice and Alexia Brascugli play Minnewaska’s Jada Hoffman and Ellen Stensrud.

The Class A individual state meet concludes Friday at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.