Though the 2021 high school girls’ tennis season did not include many of the limitations that came during the most recent season thanks to COVID-19, EP coach Alexa Horoshak and her team dealt with challenges such as players out due to COVID protocols and injuries.
“It felt like we haven’t had our same team every day,” Horoshak said. “There were a lot of ups and downs.”
Despite some of those challenges the team faced, the results the team found were notable, whether it was the team’s run to the section 2AA final or success at the individual level.
When it comes to those ups and downs, they appear to have correlated with wins and losses during the season.
“We’re mostly winning when we’re supposed to and we lose when we’re supposed to,” Horoshak said.
There were some exceptions to that sentiment from Horoshak. That included wins against Maple Grove, a team that is headed to the state tournament after capturing the Section 5AA title.
Another up during the season came against Mahtomedi. The Zephyrs made it to the Section 4AA finals but did fall to the Eagles, including multiple matches that went to a decisive third set when the two teams met.
“It was pretty nice to have those things go our way,” Horoshak said. “We knew both of those teams would be tough.”
On the individual level, one player Horoshak pointed out received praise for a specific reason. That would be Sophia Salamekh. The veteran Eagle tennis player took on the role this year of mentoring the two seventh graders on the team.
“She’s been a great mentor for them,” Horoshak said of Salamekh. “She’s really developed as a leader. She’s been very consistent and that has been amazing.”
Based on the team’s performance during the regular season, the team was one of the top seeds in the Section 2AA tournament. The benefit of that was avoiding Minnetonka, the top-ranked team in Minnesota, according to the website MNHStennis.org.
As a top seed, EP took care of business in the early rounds of section play. That started with a 6-1 win against Hutchinson in the team’s opening match of the section tournament.
Then, things started to toughen up when the Eagles took on Shakopee. It was a tight match, but EP ended up prevailing 4-3. It was the second time the Eagles had defeated the Sabers this season.
“We felt confident heading in,” Horoshak said. “They changed things up on us, so we really had to bring it.”
Horoshak also said one of the keys to the win for EP was the play of Lakshanya Selvakumar. The Eagles’ No. 4 singles player picked up the clinching victory in 3 sets to keep EP’s season alive.
Playing in the section semifinals and final, the Eagles headed to Gustavus Adolphus. Playing against Prior Lake, EP advanced, 4-3.
Next up for the Eagles came the big, bad Skippers. Minnetonka had defeated EP during the regular season and did so in the section final, 7-0.
“I thought we played Minnetonka well in the final match,” Horoshak said. “I think we did better than we did in the regular season.”
After the Eagles’ team run came to an end, the individuals took the stage in the Section 2AA tournament. The biggest standout was Niyanthi Bhupatiraju. EP’s top singles player advanced to the singles finals before being defeated.
With the 2021 season in the rear-view mirror, Horoshak and her team are still celebrating the success of this season, including during the recent team banquet. But with some young players coming back, there is an opportunity.
“Every new year, I look forward to a new chance,” Horoshak said.