ST. JAMES, Minn. (KEYC) — The St. James Area girls tennis team has at least 20 wins in every season since 2001, a stretch of dominance that’s due in part to the leadership role seniors play in helping out the younger athletes.
“We’ve always been able to look up to the older kids. When I was an eighth grader, I started varsity. I always felt like I was able to look up to the older seniors to get me to where I am,” said Ellie Becker, St. James Area junior.
“There’s a lot of factors there, Les Zellmann is a hall of fame tennis coach and has coached for a long time. We’ve also had some great mentorship from seniors over the years, you could go down the line, year after year that have followed in the line of players that had come the year before,” said Brian Bluedorn, St. James Area co-head coach.
In 13 of the last 14 years, the Saints have advanced to the state tournament as a team.
“I just think we have a lot of awesome girls. We work really well together, we don’t have drama and we work well together. That’s what you need as a team, is teamwork,” said Luci Kulseth, St. James Area senior.
“We have goals of just playing hard every day. We want to improve 1–3 percent every day, and if we do that, the wins and losses will take care of themselves,” said Bluedorn.
“I think everyone that has come into the program has had passion for the sport and put more effort into what they want,” said Noel Westcott, St. James Area senior.
The squad lost a few seniors from last year’s squad that had over 300 wins combined, but the Saints are determined to get back to yet another state tournament in 2019.
“We’re going to have to try really hard, practice, and work as a team,” said Westcott.
The Saints open up the season on Monday at Mankato West.