NEW ULM - In Thursday's No. 1 singles girls' tennis match between New Ulm senior Laura Albrecht and Redwood Valley senior Abby Schmidt, no point came easy.
It took almost two-and-a-half hours and numerous long rallies to decide a winner, with Schmidt prevailing by a 7-5, 7-6 (8-6) score that helped the Cardinals earn a 6-1 team victory in the season opener for the Eagles.
"It was really good," Schmidt said of the match. "She hits everything back, which makes her a really good player, so we were pretty evenly matched."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm’s Laura Albrecht hits a return during her No. 1 singles girls’ tennis match against Redwood Valley’s Abby Schmidt on Thursday in New Ulm.
Albrecht knew straight away that Schmidt was going to be a tough opponent. In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed by Schmidt's skill, Albrecht took a patient approach to the match.
"You've just got to take each point one at a time," Albrecht said. "Just say, 'I've got to get the next point' and then you'll get it."
Schmidt served to victory in the first game of the match, but Albrecht countered by winning the next game after a long back-and-forth at deuce - the first of 13 games in the match that went to deuce.
Albrecht kept the momentum to pull to a 3-1 lead, after which Schmidt won three of the next four games to tie the score at 4-4. Albrecht broke Schmidt's serve in the next game to take a 5-4 lead, but Schmidt took the next three games to win the first set.
In the second set Albrecht took the early momentum, pulling away for a 3-0 lead. Schmidt rebounded by winning the next five games in a row - three of the games going to deuce - at which point she seemingly had the match in hand.
However, Albrecht fought off three match points in the next game to keep her chances alive. She continued her comeback by winning the next game to tie the score at 5-5.
"I was really glad," Albrecht said of her comeback. "I just wanted to catch up to her a little bit, and that's what I did, so I was happy with that."
Schmidt won the next game to again take the advantage, but Albrecht fought off another three match points in the following game to send the second set to a tie-breaker.
After Albrecht took leads of 3-1 and 5-3 in the tie-breaker, Schmidt finally earned the points she needed to put the match to rest.
When asked what she thought was the key to her success, Schmidt answered, "Keeping your calm, even if it's ad-out [advantage to the receiver at deuce], because if you just freak out and give up then you might have to play a whole other set, and it's hot out."
Schmidt is now 3-0 on the season after earning victories in Redwood Valley's triangular against MACCRAY and Sauk Centre on Friday.
Despite the loss, Albrecht took many positives away from the match, including with her service game.
"My serves were going pretty good," Albrecht said. "I got a lot of my first serves in, which I was pretty happy about."
Thursday's stiflingly hot conditions impacted the No. 2 singles match between New Ulm's Jennifer Martins and Redwood Valley's Abi Einck, with Martins earning the victory when Einck was forced to resign in the third set after falling ill due to the heat. Martins won the first set 6-4, with Einck taking the second set 6-1.
In the other singles matches, Redwood Valley's Ahnna Malacek defeated Maya Sarkar 6-1, 6-3 at No. 3 and the Cardinals' Alyssa Lueck defeated Miriam Jakel 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4.
In doubles action, RV seniors Callie Hansen and Alex Erie defeated New Ulm seniors Hannah Jakel and Marissa Johnson 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 at No. 1, Cardinals Becca Einck and Madison Tholkes won 7-5, 6-1 against Emma Vranich and Gracelyn Sarkar at No. 2 and the RV duo of Carli Grannes and Mackenzie Jeseritz defeated Mattea Sievert and Sicily Trullinger 6-1, 6-2 at No. 3.
"Redwood Falls is a good team," New Ulm head coach Kevin Maudal said. "We played well, a lot of the points went to deuce and three of the girls played three sets, so that was good. For a young team we did really well today."
A large crowd of spectators was on hand to witness Thursday's action.
"I was glad to see the number of people that turned out, it was really good," Maudal said. "This is the biggest crowd for tennis that I've seen in many, many years."
The Eagles will play again today at 4:30 p.m. when they host River Valley.
"We have another game tomorrow that will be just as hot, so hopefully they learn to drink a lot of water and take it easy and see how we do tomorrow," Maudal said.