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Tennis: Reshuffled Cardinals team off to a 2-1 start

Alexandria seniors Abby Sater (facing) and Madison Ressemann celebrate a point during their first doubles match against Fergus Falls on Tuesday night. Sater and Ressemann played together at second doubles last year and will anchor the first spot this season. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)1 / 5
Alexandria senior Laura Wilmesmeier watches her return against Fergus Falls' Kailyn Richey at second singles on Tuesday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)2 / 5
Alexandria's Annie Harding goes into her serve at third singles against Fergus Falls on Tuesday. Harding won 6-1, 6-1 to help the Cardinals to the 6-1 team win. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)3 / 5
Alexandria fourth singles player Sarah Jiang returns a shot against Fergus Falls' Carlie Meis on Tuesday at Alexandria Area High School. Jiang won that match 6-0, 6-1 to help the Cardinals to the team win. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)4 / 5
Alexandria sophomore Brianna Holm gets to a ball during her first singles match against Ellie Colbeck on Tuesday. Holm dropped that match in three sets as she gets accustomed to playing in that top singles spot for the first time this season. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)5 / 5

The Alexandria girls tennis team comes into this season with a few questions to answer but with the comfort of getting off to a 2-1 start after breezing past Fergus Falls in the home opener.

This is a new-look Cardinals team after losing three of four singles players from a year ago. That’s reshuffled the lineup with even most of the returning players asked to take on different roles this fall. So far, so good after Alexandria beat the Otters 6-1 on Tuesday night.

“It’s going to be a real growth process,” head coach Dave Ronning said. “We’re really focusing on forming solid relationships and chemistry and kids doing things together. Focusing on that more than wins and losses because we’re so fresh, so many new faces and numbers are down. I think it’s going to be a fun year. I think it will be great for those kids. Our three captains are great leaders, and they’re making it fun for everybody.”

Abby Sater, Madison Ressemann and Laura Wilmesmeier are those three senior captains who are taking on important spots in the lineup.

Wilmesmeier looks to anchor the second singles spot, and she moved quickly through her match against the Otters’ Kailyn Richey in a 6-2, 6-1 final. Wilmesmeier has played both doubles and singles and feels comfortable in that second singles role with sophomore Brianna Holm moving into the top singles spot.

“Bri is only a sophomore, so she’ll get to learn and just get better because she still has two years,” Wilmesmeier said. “I’m glad she’s at first because she’ll just get so much better that way, and then I’ll be a solid person at second.”

Sater and Ressemann have moved up a spot in the lineup after playing second doubles together a year ago. They will anchor the first doubles spot, and Ronning said he feels great about what they can do there. The two seniors won 6-0, 6-3 on Tuesday.  

“I think we’re comfortable with it,” Ressemann said. “We were at second doubles last year and played together, so we know how we play and how we communicate with each other. We’re just bringing it up another level.”

The shifting throughout the lineup doesn’t stop with the top spots in singles and doubles. Junior Annie Harding played doubles last year, but she’s settled into the third singles role early on. Harding was dominant against Ara Weber of Fergus Falls as she won 6-1, 6-1. At fourth singles, sophomore Sarah Jiang followed suit with a 6-0, 6-1 win.

With all the moving parts, this is an Alexandria team that hopes to gain experience and be playing its best tennis come tournament time.

“I think it will be comfortable enough that some of the new girls can be eased in nicely,” Sater said. “I think a team goal is always to get to sections. We got to subsections last year, and it was close. So I feel like that would be a good team goal for us.”

Maybe the biggest leap in the lineup is being made by Holm at that No. 1 singles spot. She went between playing lower in the singles lineup and in doubles a year ago, but Ronning said there is no doubt she has earned her role as this year’s top singles player.

“She’s got the most experience of anybody on our team,” Ronning said. “She’s played more than everybody else, so I feel really good about that. She’s got everything. She’s got all the strokes. She’s got all the power and everything, but she needs to play smart. That’s the key to playing that spot because you’re going to play the best person every time.”

Holm won a 6-4 first set against Ellie Colbeck on Tuesday. Colbeck responded after that, winning 6-3, 6-3 over the final two sets to get the Otters their lone point. Holm is 1-2 on the young season as she gets herself comfortable anchoring the singles lineup.

“I love her at that spot,” Ronning said. “She needs to be there. She likes the challenge of it, too.”

Holm and this whole team hope to see a lot of growth all season. One of the two wins so far came in a 4-3 contest against section rival Bemidji on Aug. 22. For a young group that would love to make it out of the subsection tournament, a 2-1 start and that win over the Lumberjacks is a nice confidence boost early in the season.  

ALEXANDRIA 6, FERGUS FALLS 1

SINGLES - No. 1 - Ellie Colbeck (FF) def. Brianna Holm, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3; No. 2 - Laura Wilmesmeier (A) def. Kailyn Richey, 6-2, 6-1; No. 3 - Annie Harding (A) def. Ara Weber, 6-1, 6-1; No. 4 - Sarah Jiang (A) def. Carlie Meis, 6-0, 6-1

DOUBLES - No. 1 - Madison Ressemann/Abby Sater (A) def. Renee Schering/Elissa Lee, 6-0, 6-3; No. 2 - Joria Downing/Kaylee Svee (A) def. Olivia Kaliher/Mackenzie Krara, 6-0, 6-2; No. 3 - Taylor Sayre/Whitly Netland (A) def. Shanda Halvorson/Takaira Wynnsheldon, 6-1, 6-3

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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