St. Michael Albertville High School juniors, Meadow LaDuke and Emma Thole, have earned a place at the Minnesota State High School League’s girls state tennis tournament, which begins tomorrow, Oct. 24.
Thole and LaDuke are the team’s number one and two singles players, respectively, and they are teaming up to play doubles at the tournament. Thole competed at the state tournament last year with a different doubles teammate, and this will be LaDuke’s first state tournament appearance.
Girls tennis head coach, Tyler Creelman, said the pair played several off-season tournaments together over the summer, and they teamed up at the sections meet to get the number two seed. The pair made it to the section finals together, earning them a spot at the state tournament despite their loss to the number one seeded team.
Creelman said the two athletes are “really good kids” who work hard and serve as captains and role models.
“Last year Meadow was actually our number 3 singles player, but she got out and did a ton of tournaments and just worked her butt off and made her way up to the number 2 singles spot,” he said.
They are just such hard working kids,” he said of the pair. “They love to get better and they love to play tennis. They are really, really good leaders for us by example of work ethic and how you should play.”
Thole said she has been playing tennis since the summer after sixth grade. She was a soccer player in her younger years but got inspired to try tennis after watching others play the game, and she said she quickly fell in love with the sport.
“I love my team and being part of a team, but I also love that it’s more individual,” she said. “I’m a very competitive person and I love competing.”
LaDuke said she has been playing tennis since age six. Her dad introduced her to the sport and got her into local lessons.
“I started to grow and really love the sport, and I started taking it more seriously about seventh grade year,” she said.
LaDuke said her favorite part of the sport has been the friendships she’s made along the way. She said making it to the state tournament with one of her best friends as her partner has been amazing.
“I think we’re both kind of ready to just show off what we have,” she said.
Thole and LaDuke said they are excited for their state tournament appearance and thankful for those who have helped them along the way.
“I’m just really appreciative for my teammates and all of my coaches, and how they have gotten me to where I am,” Thole said.
Creelman said moving from the Mississippi 8 to the Lake Conference has been a big change for their program, but he said it’s been beneficial for the players to compete against what he called the state’s best tennis conference. The Lake Conference includes the top two teams in the state, Edina and Minnetonka.
“It was definitely an adjustment, but it’s been better for our team,” Creelman said. “The level of competition we got to play against helped us later in the season.”
The girls team placed fifth in the seven-team conference, which Creelman said was a good placement considering the number of highly skilled teams.
The Lady Knights fell to Wayzata 4-3 at the section semi-finals in what Creelman called a great match.
“It was just a few points here and there and I think the match would have gone our way,” he said.
Besides the team’s state-bound competitors, Creelman said sophomore Brooke Beck’s sections performance was a notable match for them. She won her first two matches and then played a “phenomenal match” against a tough competitor in the quarter finals, and he said she played at a very high level despite her eventual loss.
State Tournament Details
The state tournament takes place at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center starting tomorrow. LaDuke and Thole play their first round at 10 a.m. against the number four seeded doubles team from Moundsview. The duo will play again at 2 p.m. that day, regardless of whether they win or lose round one.