Girls Tennis Individual Championships Recap
Posted: Friday, October 29, 2021 - 4:51 PM
Minnehaha Academy sophomores Isabelle Einess and Ancele Dolensek finished the Minnesota State High School League’s regular season of girls tennis with identical 16-0 records. Einess played No. 1 singles and Dolensek was at No. 2. When the postseason began, they ended up becoming opponents in the Region 4A tournament. They met for the region title, with Einess winning, and both qualifed for the state tournament.
The best friends ended the season on the same court again with the Class A championship at stake during the state tournament held on Friday, Oct. 29 at the Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center in Minneapolis. Dolensek, seeded No. 2 in the singles field, avenged her only loss of the season with a riveting and dramatic 6-0, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) victory over the top-seeded Einess in a match that lasted nearly three hours. Powerful ground strokes and timely finesse shots were a theme on both sides of the net before Dolensek pulled away in the tie-breaking third set to become Minnehaha Academy’s first-ever state champion in girls tennis.
“It is an historic day for Minnehaha Academy,” said Josh Thurow, activities director of the Minneapolis-based school. “To have two girls in the state championship match is an incredible accomplishment. I don’t think what we saw makes them Nos. 1 and 2 in Class A tennis. I think they are No. 1 and No. 1A. We are really excited about what they have done and really look forward to watching them progress in the future.”
Dolensek’s path to a championship had a stunning start with a 6-0 victory over Einess in the first set. Einess battled back with a 6-3 victory in the second set to create an intense tie-breaking set where every point was pivotal. In the third set, the stoic Dolensek led 4-3 and was serving, but Einess tied the set at 4-all. Not swayed, Dolensek broke Einess’ serve to surge ahead 5-4. Back and forth the third set went, the intensity increasing on every powerful ground stroke and high volley to see whether it would be inbounds or not. In the tie-breaker, Dolensek built a 5-1 lead, but Einess won four of the next five points to pull to within 6-5. Dolensek responded by recording the championship point moments later.
Even in victory, Dolensek wasn't sure how to feel.
"I don't really know," she said. "I haven't quite comprehended it yet, but it feels good so far."
Dolensek was also asked if she and Einess will be able to look back someday and realize what a great match they had.
"I think we'll both be over it in about a week," Dolensek said. "It was a really good match."
Rochester Lourdes junior Ryann Witter, the No. 3 seed in the field, captured the third-place medal with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Eveleth-Gilbert junior Lydia Delich. In the doubles tournament, Breck senior Ellie Pirtle and junior teammate Petra Lyon captured the championship with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Rochester Lourdes sophomores Taylor Elliott and Elyse Palen. Litchfield junior Kylie Michels and senior Britney Prahl placed third in the doubles with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Breck senior Aditi Nadkarin and sophomore Mehbod Witt.
Minnetonka junior Sarah Shahbaz capped a dominant season, individually and collectively, by capturing the Class AA singles championship with a 7-6 (7-2), 6-0 victory over top-seeded Zoe Adkins, a senior at Maple Grove, on Friday, Oct. 29 at the Baseline Tennis Center on the University of Minnesota campus. Shahbaz, seeded No. 2, completed the season 27-0 and it paired with Minnetonka winning the Class AA team title two days earlier. Two years ago, Shahbaz paired with Annika Elvestrom to with the Class AA doubles championship. The state tournament wasn’t held in 2020 because of a global pandemic.
Shahbaz is Minnetonka’s first girls state champion since 2016 when Isabella Lambert won the Class AA crown. She is Minnetonka’s fourth-ever girls state champion since the activity was sanctioned in 1974.
Teammate Kelsey Phillips, a junior, won the third-place medal with a default victory over Roseville Area senior Nikki Ridenour.
In the doubles competition, Minnetonka’s Annika Elvestrom, a senior, and Karina Elvestrom, a sophomore, won the state championship with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Rochester Century’s Julia Baber, a senior, and junior Paige Sargent. Mounds View’s Molly Austin, a senior, and junior Katerina Smiricinschi topped Minnetonka juniors Maddie Prondzinski and Emiljia Medzuikaite for the third-place medal.