Valley City High Schoolâ€™s Kierstin Lorenz, left, and Clarissa Olson hope to continue their strong doubles season with a state berth at the Eastern Dakota Conference regional tournament, which starts Thursday in Grand Forks.
Valley City High School senior Kierstin Lorenz has come as close as you can get to the state girls tennis tournament.
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Each of the last two years, sheâ€™s lost in a state qualifying match at the Eastern Dakota Conference regional tournament.
â€śHeartbreakers,â€ť she said.
This year, she isnâ€™t 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 EDCâ€™s best.
In the EDC tournament, theyâ€™ll be teamed together playing doubles.
â€śThese two have the potential to do something special in the individual tournament,â€ť Valley City coach Matt Nielson said. â€śThey both have the skills.â€ť
On the court, the two have developed a chemistry based off their playing styles.
Generally, itâ€™s Olson covering the net with aggressive play up front.
â€śClarissaâ€™s a monster at the net and sheâ€™s really tall, so nothing gets by her, which makes it really easy for me,â€ť Lorenz said.
It leaves Lorenz in the back to play a more
â€śKierstinâ€™s more consistent in back than I am,â€ť Olson said. â€śWhen Iâ€™m up and sheâ€™s back, it works really well.â€ť
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.
â€śSheâ€™s been a great leader and a great captain for us,â€ť Nielson said. â€śThis is one of most coachable teams Iâ€™ve had and one of the most fun teams Iâ€™ve had and most ethical teams Iâ€™ve had. A coach can try to cultivate those things but unless they have their teamâ€™s leaders on board, like Kierstin, it wouldnâ€™t matter.
â€śWithout Kierstin we wouldnâ€™t have the culture we have on our team.â€ť
In Olsonâ€™s case, itâ€™s 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.
â€śSheâ€™s so fierce and competitive,â€ť Nielson said. â€śShe wants to win the next point, can see whatâ€™s going on and can adjust her game without a coach. Sheâ€™s just that savvy. She knows sports, knows how to win and has brought that attitude and some of the girls are catching on.â€ť
In addition to the top doubles team, the Hi-Liners also hope to have success from numerous other players.
Kristin Nelson, the teamâ€™s only other senior, will have a shot at singles competition in the individual tournament.
â€śSheâ€™s getting it and she deserves it,â€ť Nielson said. â€śThat will be a great experience for her.â€ť
Sheâ€™ll 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.
â€śItâ€™s nice to see an 8th grader who has such huge drive and motiviation and is very coachable,â€ť Nielson said. â€śYou tell her to do something on the court and itâ€™s done.â€ť
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 EDCâ€™s top competition during the regular season.
â€śWe were one match from being the No. 4 seed (Fargo Davies) and that felt good, but West Fargoâ€™s really tough,â€ť he said. â€śWeâ€™re going to give them our all and just do the best we can.â€ť
The strategy changes from the regular season in that the team tournamentâ€™s 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.
â€śAs a seven seed, weâ€™re going to be the underdogs and if weâ€™re able to pull off even one victory, itâ€™s going to be a pretty big deal for us,â€ť he said. â€śIf we can pull off a state berth, that would be absolutely amazing.â€ť