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CEC tennis finishes season in playoffs

Members of the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls tennis team learned a lot this season, and most of them will return next year. Only four seniors are graduating. Shelley Robideaux/Special to the Pine Journal

GIRLS TENNIS PLAYOFFS

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The season is over for the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls tennis team, capping a year of hopeful growth for the program.

The team season ended Oct. 4 with a 7-0 loss at second-seeded Elk River, and six players went on to compete in the individual portion of the section tournament later that week.

Sophomore Michelle Jokinen lost her singles match 6-3, 6-0 in the first round and fellow sophomore Autumn Moynan lost her first round match as well.

There was better success in the doubles, as seniors Ally Martin and MaKayla Borske earned the seventh seed and defeated a team from North Branch 6-3, 7-5 in their first-round match before falling out of the competition in the second round.

Freshman Kylie McKeon and sophomore Lexi Norrgard were eliminated in the first round of doubles play.

"I was very glad to see Ally and MaKayla win, especially as seniors," coach Derek Johnson said. "They deserved that, after all the hard work they have put into the program and to improving as players."

The team loses Zoe Klimek and Jayda Woller to graduation in addition to Martin and Borske, and will have only one senior next season according to the current roster.

"We'll still be young," Johnson said. "We knew we would take some lumps having sophomores gaining experience at the first two singles positions, but we will be better for it in the long run."

The team won two matches this season, against Superior and Denfeld, but Johnson sees a better future ahead.

"The middle school phy ed classes are teaching tennis earlier now so hopefully kids get an understanding and liking for the game," Johnson said. "We do get sophomores and juniors who have never picked up a racket before coming to practice. That's fine, but we would like to be able to get kids experience at younger ages whenever we can.

"We had a seventh-grader (Jordan Rahkola) playing some varsity this season," Johnson continued. "The fun will be in watching those kids grow. We had people who had never played tennis before holding down varsity spots by the end of the season."

For Johnson, watching players improve was the best part of the season.

"The thing I liked the best as a coach was the players never stopped asking questions and trying to learn, even in the section tournament," Johnson said. "They would ask questions about strategy, doubles hand signals and what they meant and all those things. They are an active, inquisitive group and they know that what they learn today will help them down the road."

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