John’s Journal: A Special Night For Tennis In South St. Paul
Community-Centered Event Was Filled With Fun
Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2022 - 2:53 PM
Sunshine. Food trucks. Music. Dogs. And tennis. It all added up to a wonderful event in South St. Paul on Tuesday evening.
The actual high school athletic competition was a varsity girls tennis match between the Rosemount Irish and the South St. Paul Packers. The hometown team came away with a 7-0 win, which was nearly beside the point.
“The win is almost secondary to the experience,” Packers coach Rebecca Spreigl said afterwards, with a blend of team pride and community joy mixed in with a sense of relief that everything came off so well.
The fun started at 5 p.m. -- two hours before the varsity match – with South St. Paul high school tennis players working with young kids on the basics of the sport. They swatted tennis balls back and forth over short, temporary nets as well as regulation nets. Little kids giggled and smiled.
At 5:45, athletes from other Packers teams were invited to challenge members of the girls tennis team. Imagine the scene: football players swinging tennis rackets, attempting success in a new sport, running around the court and laughing with their friends.
The varsity match was billed as an “Under the Lights” contest. That was a little easier a year ago, when Rosemount hosted the first installment of this new tradition on courts that had permanent lights. The scenic Roosevelt Park tennis courts in South St. Paul are made for playing in sunshine, but temporary lights were rented for this occasion … with the local Lions Club covering the cost in another example of community togetherness. There was a minor glitch before sunset when an electrical issue knocked out one of the four light poles, but that was quickly rectified. The lights weren’t Hollywood bright after the sun said goodnight, but that didn’t darken the fun.
“It was a little shadowy,” Spreigl said. “They were not perfect but we made them work.”
The idea for the annual event between the two teams sprang from a boys tennis tradition that has the teams from Rosemount and Hastings meeting in a similar community-themed event. Dana Hansen, who coaches the Rosemount girls and boys teams, said, “The girls would always come and be like, ‘Why can't we do that?’ They were really excited to watch the boys and it was like, ‘Coach, we want to do that, too.’ ”
Spreigl said, “Dana really gave me all the ideas and everything, and I took a lot of it from her. She deserves an awful lot of credit.”
Before the varsity match, the lineups were introduced as a large gathering of families and friends applauded and cheered. South St. Paul senior Malia Meyer sang the national anthem, and the captains from the 2021 Packers team performed a ceremonial first serve to the 2022 captains.
It was wonderful in many ways, not the least of which was watching female athletes compete on teams led by female head coaches.
“It was really special,” Spreigl said.
Nobody could argue.
--To see a photo gallery, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org