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'Jacks tennis sets foundation for future

After graduating 16 seniors a year ago, there was plenty of speculation the Cloquet-Esko-

Carlton girl’s tennis team would be a pushover this season. Instead, the team surprised many

local tennis fans by finishing with an impressive 10-15 record, serving notice the team is still strong.

“There were many coaches who came up to me and said they were shocked at how good our

team was,” said ninth-year head coach Derek Johnson.

As a team, CEC lost in the second round of the playoffs to the top seed Elk River, but the ’Jacks sent six players to the individual portion of the section tournament, including singles players Alexis Gorandson and Araya Kiminski, and doubles teams Frankie Halverson and Jordyn Rahkola along with Emma Welch and Gabby Renquist.

While the other section qualifiers lost opening matches, Rahkola and Halverson defeated Denfeld 2-1 before losing to Hibbing.

“I was proud of them because they lost the first set to Denfeld and then rallied for the win,” Johnson said. “I told them it is a long match and you two are still in it, so keep fighting, and they did a great job coming back.”

The coach is now raising expectations. He said the Lumberjacks will need to add depth and continue to grow in the technical aspect of the sport.

“Our goal is to try and reload every year, and that is hard to accomplish,” Johnson said. “This year’s team did everything we asked of them. We asked them to get out and play tennis this

summer and whenever they could get on a court, and you could really see the improvement.”

If things continue to go in the direction they are headed, the Lumberjacks could be on the verge of joining the top tier of teams in a tough section.

“We have one of the toughest sections in the state,” Johnson said. “We need to continue to improve and learn from these past two seasons.”