The Rosemount Irish girls' tennis team has met adversity head on this season after a successful campaign last year. The Irish have nine seniors on varsity, many of whom are in the lineup. However, despite that experience they have ran up against a tough schedule and have won just one match so far (against Farmington). Despite just the one win, head coach Matt Knutson said that his team has remained positive.
"Our record is not where we want it to be, for sure, but the girls know that it's a long season," he said. "They've been really improving, they could have let themselves get really down and not happy with their record, but they know where they're improving and what they need to be doing to have more success."
Rosemount had to replace key parts of their lineup from last year, which has taken some adjustment. They have also had several close matches, so despite their record the Irish are a competitive team.
"We've learned a lot this season I think, we had a really successful season last year and with that we lost our No. 1 singles, No. 4 singles and one of our No. 1 doubles so everyone has had to move up spots," Knutson said. "We've been really close in some matches, I scheduled a lot of state-caliber teams this year."
Last week, the Irish fell against Shakopee and in a very tight match to Apple Valley. They lost to Shakopee 5-2 with wins from senior Livia Leary at No. 1 singles 6-0, 6-1 and sophomore Sonya Ramesh in No. 2 singles 6-0, 6-0. Their match against the Eagles had five matches go to a third set and a final score of 4-3 Apple Valley. Ramesh won No. 1 singles in three sets and Leary and partner senior Julia Vitale played No. 1 doubles and won in three sets. The No. 2 doubles team of senior Megan Larson and sophomore Hallie McCann also won in three sets.
Knutson said that the team's strength this season has been the seniors and the whole team's ability to move around the lineup.
"Knowing that the seniors want to do whatever they can do to help the team win, if that means that they play singles, play doubles, they're going to step in there and give it their best," he said. "I would say that experience has been a big part of our team, and not only with how we've handled matches, but just the progression of the season and still motivating the team, that they have a chance in all of the matches that we have. We're still looking forward in our matches and we're not letting those losses hamper us in the future."
"We have a lot of different lineups that we can throw out there and the girls are really flexible with that and understand that ultimately, we are a team and we're going to do whatever we can to be successful as a team," Knutson said. "Continuing to focus on all of the positives that we've had in the season and where we've grown as tennis players and people and letting that reflection propel us forward."
He also praised two of his players for not only their play on the court, but also their roles off the court.
"Liv Leary, she's played No. 2 singles for a few years and has been on varsity since her eighth-grade year, Knutson said. "This year she's had to step up to No. 1 singles after her sister (Anna Leary) graduated. Liv is one of our three captains. She just from the first day of practice completely stepped up and has been a leader, not only in terms of tennis but being a vocal leader at practices and doing everything she can to benefit everybody else. I'm really pleased with what Liv has been doing this year, with not only her match scores but just the way she's serving as a leader for this team."
"Sonya Ramesh, she has played ever since she was a seventh-grader on varsity as four singles and three singles," he said. "Last year she played a lot of two singles, she's had a balance of No. 1 singles and No. 2 singles this year. She's also played a lot of tennis year-round her whole life and she's kind of been able to see a lot of the leadership things and the great things her teammates have done. I know that she's someone who is going to be a strong leader for us in the future and is also a really big motivator for everyone else to work as hard as her."
Looking ahead to the end of the regular season and upcoming sections, Knutson said that the Rosemount doubles teams have been working on strategy while the singles players focus on keeping as many balls in play as possible, competing and being "tough outs."
"The girls are fighting hard and we're moving the lineup around a lot and they're being flexible with that too," he said. "I know our girls are ready for sections and they're excited to play against these teams. They've really been anxious to get winning and I think it's a great time for that to start happening."
The Irish have two regular season matches left, both at home. Tuesday they face Lakeville North and on Thursday for Senior Night Eagan comes to town. Sections start the first week of October.