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Valley City High School senior Kierstin Lorenz has come as close as you can get to the state girls tennis tournament.
Each of the last two years, she‚Äôs lost in a state qualifying match at the Eastern Dakota Conference regional tournament.
‚ÄúHeartbreakers,‚ÄĚ she said.
This year, she isn‚Äôt approaching the EDC tournament any differently. Same routine, same goal ‚ÄĒ getting one more trip to Fargo for the state tournament.
The EDC tournament starts at 10 a.m. Thursday in Grand Forks with the team tournament. The No. 7 Hi-Liners take on No. 2 West Fargo. The double elimination bracket will take four teams to the state tournament.
The Hi-Liners will then have a chance to make state Friday and Saturday at the individual tournament.
For Lorenz, who has been the top singles player on the team all season, the best shot will likely come from her doubles play with freshman Clarissa Olson.
In addition to strong singles seasons, the duo has teamed all season long at No. 1 doubles and held their own with some of the EDC‚Äôs best.
In the EDC tournament, they‚Äôll be teamed together playing doubles.
‚ÄúThese two have the potential to do something special in the individual tournament,‚ÄĚ Valley City coach Matt Nielson said. ‚ÄúThey both have the skills.‚ÄĚ
On the court, the two have developed a chemistry based off their playing styles.
Generally, it‚Äôs Olson covering the net with aggressive play up front.
‚ÄúClarissa‚Äôs a monster at the net and she‚Äôs really tall, so nothing gets by her, which makes it really easy for me,‚ÄĚ Lorenz said.
It leaves Lorenz in the back to play a more
‚ÄúKierstin‚Äôs more consistent in back than I am,‚ÄĚ Olson said. ‚ÄúWhen I‚Äôm up and she‚Äôs back, it works really well.‚ÄĚ
Despite the age difference, both play leadership roles on the team, Nielson said.
Lorenz has been a mainstay on the team since her eighth grade year and continued to grow.
‚ÄúShe‚Äôs been a great leader and a great captain for us,‚ÄĚ Nielson said. ‚ÄúThis is one of most coachable teams I‚Äôve had and one of the most fun teams I‚Äôve had and most ethical teams I‚Äôve had. A coach can try to cultivate those things but unless they have their team‚Äôs leaders on board, like Kierstin, it wouldn‚Äôt matter.
‚ÄúWithout Kierstin we wouldn‚Äôt have the culture we have on our team.‚ÄĚ
In Olson‚Äôs case, it‚Äôs a matter of leading by example. Olson is frequently having fun, but also has a competitive mentality that has led to success in multiple varsity sports as a freshman.
‚ÄúShe‚Äôs so fierce and competitive,‚ÄĚ Nielson said. ‚ÄúShe wants to win the next point, can see what‚Äôs going on and can adjust her game without a coach. She‚Äôs just that savvy. She knows sports, knows how to win and has brought that attitude and some of the girls are catching on.‚ÄĚ
In addition to the top doubles team, the Hi-Liners also hope to have success from numerous other players.
Kristin Nelson, the team‚Äôs only other senior, will have a shot at singles competition in the individual tournament.
‚ÄúShe‚Äôs getting it and she deserves it,‚ÄĚ Nielson said. ‚ÄúThat will be a great experience for her.‚ÄĚ
She‚Äôll be joined in singles competition individually by Sam Coit and Sara Gilbertson.
In doubles, Maia Wendel, an 8th grader with only two matches of varsity experience late in the year, will likely play a match in the team tournament and could also see play during the individual tournament.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs nice to see an 8th grader who has such huge drive and motiviation and is very coachable,‚ÄĚ Nielson said. ‚ÄúYou tell her to do something on the court and it‚Äôs done.‚ÄĚ
For the team tournament, Nielson said he has three lineups prepared.
One for the opening match against West Fargo, and one for both Fargo South and Fargo North, one of which will play Valley City in the second round.
Nielson said that the odds are against his team, even if it held its own with some of EDC‚Äôs top competition during the regular season.
‚ÄúWe were one match from being the No. 4 seed (Fargo Davies) and that felt good, but West Fargo‚Äôs really tough,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going to give them our all and just do the best we can.‚ÄĚ
The strategy changes from the regular season in that the team tournament‚Äôs 3-2 format limits players to singles or doubles. Players such Olson, who would help win two matches during the regular season are limited to one or the other.
Nielson said he expects his doubles teams to hold their own, so he expects the team tournament to be decided in singles play.
‚ÄúAs a seven seed, we‚Äôre going to be the underdogs and if we‚Äôre able to pull off even one victory, it‚Äôs going to be a pretty big deal for us,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIf we can pull off a state berth, that would be absolutely amazing.‚ÄĚ