The Ranger girls tennis team put on an exhibition over the past week by sweeping Park and White Bear Lake, then going 3-0 at the Duluth East Invite over the weekend to take first place and earn the state’s No. 8 ranking in Class AA.
Forest Lake faced No. 7 Mahtomedi in the first round of Saturday’s tournament and scored a 5-2 win, knocking the Zephyrs out of the top-10 state rankings.
Sophomore Megan Anderson won at the No. 2 singles spot, 7-6, 6-3, while junior Noel Vierra came from behind to record the other singles win at the fourth position, 2-6, 6-2 (10-6).
The sister duo of senior Taylor Shortly and junior Chase Shortly won handily at No. 1 doubles with a score of 6-0, 6-2. Seniors Bailey Norby and Taylor Emly took control at No. 2 doubles for a 7-5, 6-1 win while seniors Natalie Wright and Lindsey Tilton cruised to victory at No. 3 doubles, 6-1, 6-1.
Head coach Violet Shortly said that while the doubles teams dominated, she was proud of her singles players.
“Megan Anderson’s win at No. 2 singles was huge – I’m hoping this will give her confidence, knowing now how big she can play,” coach Shortly said. “Noel at No. 4 singles made a great comeback to win the third set tie-breaker, showing her competitive drive.”
A true test of the team’s talent came against the next foe: Elk River. Prior to Saturday, Forest Lake had never beaten the Elks in coach Shortly’s tenure, but the Rangers changed that with a 5-2 victory.
The doubles side swept again with wins by Norby and Emly at No. 1 (6-2, 7-5), Anderson and Wright at No. 2 (6-4, 6-3) and Tilton and senior Risa Anderson at No. 3 (6-2, 6-3).
“I really thought that our toughest matchup was going to be their No. 1 doubles team (seniors Rebecca O’Connell and Hadley Purdy), two seniors with a ton of experience,” Violet Shortly said. “Bailey and Taylor (Emly) are just playing lights-out tennis. Natalie is such a versatile player, being able to adjust to many different partners, and my No. 3 team is a sure win with a record of 18-1 so far this year. I’m so proud of everyone.”
Elk River has lost just one other match this season, and that was to No. 2 Minnetonka.
Winning on the singles side were Chase Shortly at No. 2 (6-3, 6-1) and Vierra at the No. 4 spot (6-0, 6-1). Taylor Shortly put up a big fight against the Elks’ No. 1 singles player but fell in a tie-breaker 3-6, 6-2 (8-10).
Coach Shortly sang praises of all her players, calling the win the greatest moment for the Rangers this fall.
“We came out so strong and never looked back,” she said. “The focus was on the opponents across the net. They all played so well, Elk River never had a chance.”
Forest Lake left no opponent standing as they took care of Duluth East in the last match of the day. The Rangers won 5-2 despite the absence of Emly, who left for a wedding.
Taylor Shortly took a win at No. 1 singles, 6-2, 6-2, while Chase Shortly racked up another victory at No. 2, 6-3, 6-4.
The doubles side went untouched again with Norby and Megan Anderson winning at No. 1 (6-2, 6-4), Tilton and Wright taking over at No. 2 (6-2, 6-0) and Risa Anderson and senior Rachel Baniecke winning at No. 3 (6-1, 6-3).
Violet Shortly said the highlight of this match was watching Baniecke step in seamlessly to fill in at No. 3 doubles with Risa Anderson.
“Both of them played like they have played together all year,” she said. “It is always tough to sit and wait to get your chance to be in the starting lineup, and Rachel was more than ready to show just how well she can play.”
The Rangers took on the No. 9 Stillwater Ponies on Tuesday, and host Cretin-Derham Hall at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12.