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Girls tennis: Lakers still searching for the big win after hard-fought defeat against Perham-New York Mills

The Detroit Lakes girls tennis team feels like its on the cusp of pulling off a big upset over a Section 8-2A opponent. The Lakers fell 5-2 against Perham-New York Mills on Thursday afternoon while inching closer to the big win they've been searching for this fall.

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Detroit Lakes' Amaya LeCleir hits a backhand shot in the Lakers' 5-2 loss against Perham on Sept, 22, 2022 at the Perham tennis courts.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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PERHAM – This season has been an uphill climb for the Detroit Lakes girls tennis team.

On Thursday afternoon, the Lakers fell 5-2 against Highway 10 rival Perham-New York Mills in the two teams’ only regular-season meeting.

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Detroit Lakes' Abby Noll returns a serve in the Lakers' 5-2 loss against Perham on Sept, 22, 2022 at the Perham tennis courts.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“I was happy with the way the girls played,” Detroit Lakes head coach Greg Unruh said. “Perham is just a little deeper than us, and it shows. We’ve lost a lot of close matches. I’m kind of hoping that when we get to sections, we can upset someone. With tennis, the pecking order is so mental. Getting over the hump is the hardest thing in this sport. It’s getting to a point where you believe you can beat a team perceived to be better than you.”

One of the most consistent players for Detroit Lakes this season have come at No. 3 singles. Jaden Mercil earned her 11th of the season, beating Alayna Moe in straight sets, 7-5, 6-2.

“We talk about grinding and grit. If you look in the dictionary, she’s in there,” Unruh said of Mercil. “I can’t believe the year she’s had. I’m really proud of her.”

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Detroit Lakes’ No. 1 doubles team of Ari Leitheiser and Megan Lunde also pulled out a win. They beat Trinity Covington and Morgan Smith 6-4, 6-3.

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Detroit Lakes' megan Lunde hits an overhea shot in the Lakers' 5-2 loss against Perham on Sept, 22, 2022 at the Perham tennis courts.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“They’ve gotten some good wins within the sections,” Unruh said. “Who knows? Maybe in the individuals, they’ll win a few matches. Doubles is so strange. When I was coaching in Fargo North, we had a No. 2 doubles team win the state tournament. It’s a weird game. If you get hot, you never know what’ll happen.”

Depth has been a hindrance for the Lakers this season. LaVonne Lindberg and Violet Radniecki took care of business at Nos. 1 and 4 singles. Maya Radniecki and Addicyn Zimmerman also rolled at No. 2 doubles.

The Lakers had a path to a victory. Amaya LeCleir put up a valiant fight at No. 2 singles before falling to Kaia Anderson 6-4, 6-1. Abby Noll and Maren Strawsell had a lead late in the first set before Courtney Ternus and Eva Vorderbruggen staged a comeback to win 7-6, 6-0.

One of the biggest challenges for Detroit Lakes this season has been replacing a large group of seniors from a year ago. Many kids were elevated into more prominent roles to fill the shoes from last fall.

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Detroit Lakes' Jaden Mericil hits a backhand shot in the Lakers' 5-2 loss against Perham on Sept, 22, 2022 at the Perham tennis courts.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“You look at Anna Askelson at No. 1 singles. She was our No. 4 last year,” Unruh said. “I always tell her and all of my No. 1 players that they’re never going to get an easy match. She’s handling it. She goes out and battles and gives it her best.”

Making a Cinderella run isn’t impossible, but Unruh has grounded expectations for a challenging Section 8-2A field. With the Lakers likely being one of the bottom seeds in the Section 8-2A field, Unruh is eyeing a first-round upset to garner momentum for the girls returning next season.

“We kind of look at ourselves as a spoiler,” he said. “Our goal is to just wreck someone’s season. I don’t think we have a team where we can win a bunch of matches, but we can ruin a higher seed’s season. We’re a little bit dangerous. We just have to believe we can be dangerous.”

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PERHAM-NEW YORK MILLS 5, DETROIT LAKES 2

SINGLES- No. 1 LaVonne Lindberg (P) def. Anna Askelson 6-1, 6-0; No. 2- Kaia Anderson (P) def. Amaya LeCleir 6-4, 6-1; No. 3- Jaden Mercil (D) def. Alayna Moe 7-5, 6-2. No. 4- Violet Radniecki (P) def. Avery Klabunde 6-2, 6-0

DOUBLES- No. 1- Ari Leitheiser-Megan Lunde (D) def. Trinity Covington-Morgan Smith 6-4, 6-3; No. 2- Maya Radniecki-Addicyn Zimmerman (P) def. Claire Pazdernik-Allie Bolar; No. 3- Courtney Ternus-Eva Vorderbruggen (P) def. Abby Noll-Maren Strawsell 7-6, 6-0

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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