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CEC picks up two wins

Don't blink or you might miss the 2009 version of the Cloquet girls tennis team. By the time school starts next week, the team's season will already be half over.

CEC Savannah Hanson
CEC's Savannah Hanson serves in a doubles match Saturday against Eveleth-Gilbert. The Lumberjacks defeated the Golden Bears 6-1. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

Don't blink or you might miss the 2009 version of the Cloquet girls tennis team. By the time school starts next week, the team's season will already be half over.

Coach Steve Rickstrom has 17 players out for this year's squad but the fickle late summer Minnesota weather is the reason his team has done so much work before anyone reports to class.

"You have to get in as much of the season as you can while you have daylight," he said. "Our playoffs are in October and at that time of year it can be hard to find both good weather and daylight to play tennis."

The team's seventh match of the season, against Hermantown, will be on the first day of school, Tuesday, Sept. 8.

That said, Rickstrom's team is off to a good start, splitting its first two matches of the season. The coach and his players will learn more about themselves as this edition of the Pine Journal goes to press, with four matches during the week.

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The season started with a 5-2 win over a Superior team that had all its players returning from a year ago.

"We didn't know what [Superior] would bring to the table but we played well and we were happy to win," Rickstrom said. "We beat them twice last year but we had no idea what to expect from them."

Then the 'Jacks faced a deep Eveleth-Gilbert-Virginia team and picked up a straight-set win at No. 1 singles from junior Kelsey Collier. However, the Golden Bears won all the other matches, handing Cloquet a 6-1 loss.

This year's team boasts seniors Alicen Johnson, Mayci Juntunen, Miranda Lyons and Savannah Hanson. Collier leads a group of five juniors which includes Savanna Ellena, a transfer student from Edina who played with that school's team.

"We don't have too many kids coming back with experience other than the top three or four players," Rickstrom said. "We have a big hill to climb, but as the season rolls on, I'm optimistic."

The current week will tell a lot about this year's team. The 'Jacks played a doubleheader Wednesday with Duluth Central and perennial power Duluth East, and will host Duluth Denfeld Thursday.

"Looking at some of the area scores I've seen, if I had to set a goal for us, I'd like to see us finish in the top three in the conference," Rickstrom said. "Hermantown and Marshall are always good. Hermantown is beating everyone they're playing at the moment, and we don't know much about Central. Third place would be a bit of a step down for us in recent years, but if I had to set a goal, a top three finish would be a good one."

Rickstrom notes that some of the players, particularly sophomore Michaela Houser and freshman Reilly Kedrowski, are working very hard to improve, with the aforementioned attending summer camps to improve their skills.

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"Our players are working hard," he said. "We have new players, too, like Asha Fritsinger who came over from volleyball to play for us."

For the longer term, there's reason to smile.

"We have some optimism, but frankly we aren't deep enough to really contend with some of the powerhouses," Rickstrom said. "Still, I'm optimistic."

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