Sep. 28—If what showed up Monday at Rochester Tennis Connection Outdoor is any indication, the future of Rochester girls tennis has rarely looked better.
Matched up were the second-ranked teams in their respective classes, Mayo No. 2 in AA and Lourdes No. 2 in A.
—Girls state tennis rankings: Mayo No. 2 in Class AA, Lourdes No. 2 in Class A
—Mayo finally gets it done against Edina
Mayo, with its superior depth and with one of the more up-and-coming players in the state at No. 1 singles, Claire Loftus, prevailed 5-2.
Both went away relatively happy. Mayo bumped its record to 15-1 and did it against a tough opponent. Lourdes slipped to 11-4 and insists it was better for the experience.
Both hope to be playing for something much bigger at the end of the season. Mayo and Lourdes are each clinging to distant hopes of finishing as state champions.
If they don't do it this year, chances are good that each will be favored to do it in the next couple of seasons. Lourdes has no seniors in its starting lineup and Mayo has just one.
And Loftus? She's a freshman.
Yes, the future of Rochester tennis is bright.
"We are young and Mayo is even younger than us," Lourdes coach David Pettengill said. "That just means that there is really good tennis coming up in Rochester."
Some of the best tennis in the state was played at No. 1 singles Monday. That match paired No. 5-ranked (Class AA) Mayo singles player Claire Loftus against No. 3-ranked (Class A) Ryann Witter, a junior.
Loftus prevailed, as had been expected. She won 6-3, 6-1 while showing off a game that has few holes in it.
"Claire and I play a lot during the summer, and she almost always beats me," Witter said. "The problem I've had before against her is that I haven't hit the ball deep enough. But even when you do that now, she's still attacking it.
"I didn't play as well as I'd hoped today, but Claire definitely had a lot to do with that."
Yes, dominant and steadily improving describes this oldest of the two Loftus sisters on this team. At No. 2 singles, seventh-grader Aoife Loftus was positioned Monday. She also provided plenty of hope as she was a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Ana Medina.
Lourdes' wins came at No. 4 singles where sophomore Erin Witter beat Mayo seventh-grader Malea Diehn 4-6, 6-4, 10-8, and at No. 1 doubles where Elyse Palen and Tayor Elliott teamed to beat Sutton Julsrud and Audrey Aney 7-5, 7-6 (7-2 tie-breaker).
Ryann Witter was grateful for the opportunity to play a team as talented as Mayo. Much of the competition that Lourdes gets during the regular season is nowhere close to what Mayo can bring.
She had a simple goal as her team squared off with the favored Spartans.
"If we can compete well, that's all we ask for," Witter said. "We're just trying to get as many games off of a team like Mayo as we can."
It's in an effort to take more strides, with the ultimate goal being that state title. No. 1 Breck is favored to win it, but Witter isn't ready to concede anything.
"We want revenge with Breck (which beat Lourdes 6-1 last week)," she said. "We'd love to play them again."
Mayo coach Jeff Demaray is seeking one thing out of his team — progress.
He thinks it's been happening lately. Besides the 5-2 win over Lourdes, the Spartans also picked up a head-turning 4-3 win recently over Edina. Mayo was starved for that, as it hadn't beaten the Hornets since 2008.
"We are getting better," Demaray said. "The object is to be playing your best at the end of the year."
Mayo 5, Lourdes 2
Singles: Claire Loftus (M) def. Ryann Witter 6-3, 6-1; Aoife Loftus (M) def. Ana Medina 6-2, 6-3; Nandini Iyer (M) def. Caroline Daly 6-1, 6-0; Erin Witter (L) def. Malea Diehn 4-6, 6-4, 10-8. Doubles: Elyse Palen/Taylor Elliott (L) def. Sutton Julsrud/Audrey Aney 7-5, 7-6 (7-2); Jorden Ruskell/Keely Ryder (M) def. Ellie Leise/Sophia Turja-Hubbard 6-2, 6-0; Ella Dozois/Charlotte Colby (M) def. Molly Suino/Taylor Seelhammer 6-1, 6-0.