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Senior Justine Haukebo returns a shot against her East Grand Forks opponent Tuesday at the DLHS courts. The Lakers dropped two in their home triangular. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)

Detroit Lakes girls' tennis has new winning attitude

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Winning is much more fun than losing.

That obvious statement can be validated by the Detroit Lakes girls' tennis team, which is experiencing the former much more than the latter this season.

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After two seasons where wins were rare, the Lakers have built a 5-7 record through the first half of the 2009 season and it couldn't be more welcomed by the players, who had to feel the sting of those losses.

"We had a lot of girls playing varsity who were inexperienced, but it was hard losing (the last two years)," said three-year starter, senior Justine Haukebo, who is DL's regular No. 2 singles player.

The Lakers are still young, but experience has been building the last two seasons. DL lost one senior off of last year's squad, with the majority of singles players back.

The season started off on a very positive note and a tone for things to come -- a win.

The Lakers opened their season in late August with a 4-3 victory over section opponent Little Falls.

With victories being a rare feeling for the DL girls, they didn't realize they had won until they were on the way home on the bus.

"We didn't know we had won until we were all talking and Justine asked who had all won their matches," said junior Joelle Langworthy, who is also a three-year starter and DL's No. 1 singles player. "Four of us raised our hands."

Added Haukebo, "That was huge. winning our first match. We just never experienced a win as a team."

From there, that feeling became a normal one, with victories over such teams as Perham, Fergus Falls and Wadena-Deer Creek.

They also started winning their Mid-State matches, which is a good sign, since the Lakers will be competing in the conference tournament Saturday in Park Rapids.

Unlike last year, where DL didn't feel like they had much of a chance in the Mid-State meet, Saturday will be a different experience.

"I told the girls that they can make some goals, but set them high because they are a better team," said second-year head coach Kris Omberg, who is a former Laker player. "We have more on the line now and we feel like we're not just showing up for the Mid-State meet to fill a spot, but we can do well in it now."

Singles play has steered the Lakers' success, with four consistent players filling the lineup.

Langworthy has been a constant as the No. 1 player for the last two seasons, while Haukebo's feisty play has made the No. 2 slot strong.

Katie Anderson and Becca Ask have also filled in the singles play well, with both picking up wins during crucial times in matches.

"There is pressure on the singles to win, which is good, because they can handle it now," Omberg said.

It's been the experience that's paying off for the singles players.

"We're just getting better as we get more experienced and older," Langworthy said. "We've beaten a few Mid-State teams and we are getting excited."

The doubles play is a work in progress with some inexperienced players, but the ceiling is high in that regard, as well.

Omberg has been matching personalities with each other to make a solid doubles lineup this season.

"It's been taking a lot of work in doubles, but that's been the fun part (of) teaching it," she said. "(Assistant coach) Danielle Schmitz has been wonderful to have on board, because she played doubles through college and I played singles, so we get both sides covered."

There are a few first-year players -- either this year or last year -- who have been contributing in doubles.

Senior Ashley Syvertson started playing tennis last season, but has been a solid presence in the doubles lineup, while first-year player, sophomore Brianna Seebold has brought a solid athleticism to the lineup.

There are plenty of first or second year players on the team who are making leaps and bounds in improvement, including Kira Leichter, Sydney and India Fritz, Britney Burnside, Devree Bunnis and Liz Steger.

Junior Tess Hamre has also been a constant in doubles play, as well as Shantel Kluenenberg and Whitney Benscoter.

The main difference between this year and the last few seasons is simple -- a winning mentality.

"Winning is definitely providing a lot of motivation," Haukebo said. "It's changed our mindset. Now, we just need to stay focused and not get too excited.

"We are winning as a team now, and that makes everyone happy."

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