Foreign exchange students bring international flavor to CEC tennisYou wouldn’t have thought the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls tennis team would resemble a model United Nations – but it does. Three exchange students, including the team’s top two singles players, have sparked the team to a strong start this fall.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
You wouldn’t have thought the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls tennis team would resemble a model United Nations – but it does.
Three exchange students, including the team’s top two singles players, have sparked the team to a strong start this fall.
Senior Victoria Marinho, who is from Brazil, is playing first singles. Sophomore Dana Hartmann, from Germany, is playing second singles. And senior Bobbie Kruysen, from the Netherlands, adds a third international player to this year’s team.
“It’s been great having them with us,” coach Steve Rickstrom said. “They are all funny, they have great senses of humor, they can play tennis, and the other players gravitate to them.”
Marinho and Hartmann were both undefeated in singles play this season until Monday, when both players fell in matches against the state’s second-ranked Class A team, Virginia. Hartmann lost after having to retire due to illness in the second set of her match.
“It’s good watching Vic and Dana hit in practice,” Rickstrom said. “But with Dana out sick this week, we brought in (St. Scholastica singles player) Nick Lind to hit with Vic. They played a set and it was really fun to watch.”
Marinho has already gained a reputation for excellent footwork on the court patterned after her hero, Swiss ace Roger Federer.
She describes herself as a baseline player who grew up in Rio de Janeiro playing on clay courts and hard surfaces, and patterns her play after Federer in terms of emotions as well.
“I enjoy the challenge of playing against the best players here,” Marinho said. “I am glad I can help the team by doing it. Federer is emotionally very straight and I like to be that way too.”
Marinho said many of the players she faced in Brazil were better than some she has played in Minnesota, but she also wanted to indulge herself by playing Brazil’s national passion, soccer.
“I want to do everything I can here while I’m here,” she said. “But soccer and tennis play at the same time of the year and I could not do both.”
That’s the gain of the tennis team.
“Vic hits shots that we call ‘dirty’ here,” Rickstrom said. “She hits with a lot of topspin and has an excellent slice backhand. She and Dana also allow the Cloquet girls on the team to play at levels where they probably should be playing right now instead of playing one or two spots higher.”
That leads us to Hartmann, a sophomore who had never played a match on a hard court surface until coming to Cloquet.
“It was difficult,” Hartmann said. “You can’t slide on a hard surface.”
Clay court players are known for their long slides along the surface, with the court generally playing much slower than a hard surface.
“Dana had trouble with blisters early on,” Rickstrom said. “She would plant her foot like in a slide but the surface, of course, would not give.”
However, she has adjusted well, serving as a practice foil for Marinho while helping the team from the second singles position.
“I think the players I played against in Germany were better,” Hartmann said. “But I really love playing here. I wanted to play a sport when I came here and I wanted to get to know people.”
Hartmann is happy with how the other players have treated her, and for this piece she utilized the services of fellow singles player Lora Chalich as a translator when needed.
“Everyone has been very nice,” she said. “We have a good coach who unites our team and it is fun to play.”
Kruysen, on the other hand, has played tennis for just two years, and plays in exhibition matches for the team, which doesn’t have a junior varsity program.
She also puts the second “C” in “CEC” as the only player on the 30-strong team who attends Carlton High School.
“I joined the team to play a sport and make friends, and I’m here in America to improve my English and learn more about the culture while I do new things,” Kruysen said. “When I go back to the Netherlands, I will have a whole different viewpoint.”
“It’s easy for Bobbie to maybe feel alone,” Rickstrom said. “Every day the bus goes to Carlton to pick her up for practice and she’s all by herself on it until the Esko kids get on. Yet it doesn’t bother her, and her teammates love her.”
Kruysen started at the team’s ‘beginner’ level but has now moved up to intermediate level and has even won an exhibition match.
“Our team would play only one day a week in Holland,” she said. “This is a lot different.”
To integrate three exchange students into a 30-player local team is no small task, and Rickstrom credits his assistant coaches.
“Carolyn Kedrowski and Joe Lendobeja, my assistants, have done a great job,” Rickstrom said. “Reilly Kedrowski, who is our captain, has tried to bring everybody together. It’s hard to have a sense of team with this many players but we’ve come as close to it as you can get.”
But don’t tell that to Kruysen.
“I feel part of a team,” she smiled.
An international team.