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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, sheâs lost in a state qualifying match at the Eastern Dakota Conference regional tournament.
âHeartbreakers,â she said.
This year, she isnât approaching the EDC tournament any differently. Same routine, same goal â 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 EDCâs best.
In the EDC tournament, theyâll be teamed together playing doubles.
âThese two have the potential to do something special in the individual tournament,â Valley City coach Matt Nielson said. âThey both have the skills.â
On the court, the two have developed a chemistry based off their playing styles.
Generally, itâs Olson covering the net with aggressive play up front.
âClarissaâs a monster at the net and sheâs really tall, so nothing gets by her, which makes it really easy for me,â Lorenz said.
It leaves Lorenz in the back to play a more
âKierstinâs more consistent in back than I am,â Olson said. âWhen Iâm up and sheâs back, it works really well.â
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.
âSheâs been a great leader and a great captain for us,â Nielson said. âThis is one of most coachable teams Iâve had and one of the most fun teams Iâve had and most ethical teams Iâve had. A coach can try to cultivate those things but unless they have their teamâs leaders on board, like Kierstin, it wouldnât matter.
âWithout Kierstin we wouldnât have the culture we have on our team.â
In Olsonâs case, itâs 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.
âSheâs so fierce and competitive,â Nielson said. âShe wants to win the next point, can see whatâs going on and can adjust her game without a coach. Sheâs just that savvy. She knows sports, knows how to win and has brought that attitude and some of the girls are catching on.â
In addition to the top doubles team, the Hi-Liners also hope to have success from numerous other players.
Kristin Nelson, the teamâs only other senior, will have a shot at singles competition in the individual tournament.
âSheâs getting it and she deserves it,â Nielson said. âThat will be a great experience for her.â
Sheâll 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.
âItâs nice to see an 8th grader who has such huge drive and motiviation and is very coachable,â Nielson said. âYou tell her to do something on the court and itâs done.â
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 EDCâs top competition during the regular season.
âWe were one match from being the No. 4 seed (Fargo Davies) and that felt good, but West Fargoâs really tough,â he said. âWeâre going to give them our all and just do the best we can.â
The strategy changes from the regular season in that the team tournamentâs 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.
âAs a seven seed, weâre going to be the underdogs and if weâre able to pull off even one victory, itâs going to be a pretty big deal for us,â he said. âIf we can pull off a state berth, that would be absolutely amazing.â