The Central High School girls’ tennis team had already accomplished a major goal this season when it captured the Saint Paul City Conference championship for the first time since 2013 with a perfect 6-0 record.

Then on October 4, the Minutemen achieved another goal with a 4-3 victory over Highland Park in the first round of the Section 3AA playoffs. However, Central came down to earth the next day with a loss to Cretin-Derham Hall in the second round.

Coach Garry Clark appeared resigned to the fact that his charges simply didn’t have the staying power to keep up with the Raiders. Despite the loss, he said, the season was already a success since his team had been chasing the conference title for quite some time.

“We were able to pull it off this year,” Clark said. “It’s been a really successful season.”

The Minutemen finished 9-5 overall following a loss to Washburn in the Twin Cities championship game on October 6. The Section 3AA individual tournament begins October 18.

Central lost only three regular-season matches this fall. That included defeats to Minnehaha Academy and CDH in mid-September, and to Saint Paul Academy at the end of that month.

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Central junior Maren Wiebach concentrates on a return during a September 30 match against Saint Paul Academy. Photo by Brad Stauffer

For the most part, Central showed it could win the close ones, including four matches by 4-3 against mostly conference foes. Central also defeated Highland Park 5-2 during the regular season before edging the Scots in sections.

Clark said the team has ridden most of the year on the strength of its top four singles players—junior Maren Wiebach, eighth-grader Claire Macedo, senior Emma Clift and sophomore Ani Holland. Clift had been the No. 1 singles player last year, and Wiebach and Macedo split time in that spot this fall.

Clark couldn’t say enough about the foursome. “I’d say that my top four singles players can compete with just about anybody,” he said.

Clark couldn’t say enough about the foursome. “I’d say that my top four singles players can compete with just about anybody,” he said.

Holland had been getting the job done at fourth singles throughout the fall. However, in a 4-3 win over DeLaSalle on September 29, she emerged from a grueling tiebreaker with a wrist injury and hasn’t played since. She was expected to be out for the year. It was too bad for Holland, too, because she was a fighter that day against the Islanders, enduring a singles match that took two and a half hours to complete.

“Her injury really put a damper on the season,” Clark said. “We needed her for sections.”

Clark said a lot of the team’s triumphs this season were due to singles players Wiebach and Macedo. “That was key for us when Claire and Maren took over the top two spots,” he said. “That was the key to our depth and it helped us become a more successful team.”

Wiebach enjoyed a solid season for the Minutemen, but she is an exchange student and is expected to return to Germany for her senior year. Macedo will provide Central with an already-seasoned player at No. 1 singles next season.

The Minutemen had some trouble at doubles throughout this fall, though those tandems still had their moments. In a 7-0 win over Johnson on September 17, Central’s No. 1 doubles team of seniors Harper Danielson and Ava Brown, the No. 2 team of junior Isabel Drexler Booth and sophomore Eva Marullo, and No. 3 team of senior Christine Horchner and freshman Mia Berndt all recorded victories.

Clark was especially enthused about the Horchner-Berndt tandem and what they have accomplished. He also is excited about next year’s team, despite losing four seniors plus Wiebach.

— Bill Wagner

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