Girls tennis: Cunningham, Cardinals clip Trojans, 7-0


WORTHINGTON -- Carissa Cunningham is a serious tennis player, and from her junior to her senior year at Luverne High School she has made big strides. A No. 2 and No. 3 singles player a year ago, she has stepped up to No. 1 singles this year. And she has embraced the added pressure.

On Monday, she lost her first match of the season against a Blue Earth Area opponent. On Tuesday she successfully rebounded, navigating a stiff breeze to beat the Worthington Trojans’ Maggie Putnam 6-0, 6-1 as her Cardinals swept the team competition 7-0.

“Usually my toss (for serving) is higher than most players, so I had to shorten it up a lot. But I got it all right,” she said. “I had to go a little lighter (on volleys) because I didn’t want it to go out. I was able to keep it in. Probably the toughest conditions we had all year.”

There isn’t a tennis player alive who likes a windy day. But Worthington head coach Mike Marquardt hoped Tuesday’s wind might be an equalizer against an outstanding LHS squad. Turns out, Luverne handled the breeze at least as well as the Trojans did.

“We played a very consistent, strong team. We served well with the wind. That was a pleasant surprise. We got in a little longer rallies. We just couldn’t finish anything,” Marquardt said.

Cunningham began playing tennis competitively in middle school after moving to Luverne from Brookings, S.D. She prepared herself for her important senior season by playing lots of tennis in the summer.

“She’s really improved a lot this year,” said her head coach, Greg Antoine. “She’s good at finishing points. If you get out of position on her, she’ll finish the point.”

That was in evidence Tuesday at the Worthington middle school tennis complex as Cunningham, though she didn’t hit the ball hard, moved it from side to side consistently well both with and against the wind.

Teammate Riley Severtson defeated Worthington’s Kessey Aljets 6-4, 6-2 in a well-played match at No. 2 singles. At third singles, Ainslie Robinson was a 6-0, 6-1 winner over Cynthia Souksavath.

The most competitive match of the day came at No. 4 singles between Luverne’s Liz Kelm and Worthington’s Madison Johnson. Kelm won the first set 6-3, fell behind 4-3 in the second set, but rallied to win it 7-5.

The Cards’ Roz Oye and Elise Jarchow won 6-0, 6-0 over Jasmine Riley and Ivy Jenson at No. 1 doubles. Meia Jarchow and Brynn Thier won 6-1, 6-0 over the Trojans’ Neveah Schreiber and Marah Darling at No. 2 doubles. And Lauren VerSteeg and Solveig Tofteland won 6-1, 6-0 over Worthington’s Cindy Hernandez and Taya Oberloh at third doubles.

Antoine was satisfied with his team’s performance.

“I think we’ve kind of settled in and found our lineup. I think it’s a clear top 10. And those 10 are pretty comfortable in their spots,” he said.