Osseo girls’ tennis sees strong growth

By Bob San

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The Osseo girls’ tennis team enters the 2017 as a young squad with no senior on the varsity line-up. Yet, spirit is high as the Orioles already picked up conference wins over Irondale and also Fairmont.

Led by sophomore Jessica Dahl at first singles and juniors Sophie Almquist and Laura Denchfield at first doubles, the Orioles are proving they are gaining ground against other conference foes. Further more, this season’s turnout is the largest in many years, a very promising development for the program.

Top players on the Osseo girls’ tennis team are (left to right): Laura Denchfield, Sophie Almquist, Sydney Masteller, Natalie Wills, Rachel Zeltinger, Rachael Erickson, Jessica Dahl, Jalena Ngep, Tori Askwith, Jaelon Irmiter, and Karissa Erickson.

“Right now we have 43 girls out of tennis,” said Osseo head coach Eric Ruska. “That’s a sure sign of growth in our program and ensures we are going to get better year by year. We have a ton of ninth graders and some very exciting prospects coming out from the middle schools.”

As expected Osseo dropped the recent conference match against Maple Grove, a team that boasts many tennis specialists who play year-round at area clubs.

“We’re different,” remarked assistant coach Brian Rusche. “We have multi-sport athletes who work super hard. Hour for hour on court we’re as good as anyone. We battle hard and compete well, even against the private lesson girls.”

For the first time in many years, Osseo has depth at singles. Along with Osseo’s best player, sophomore Dahl, the singles positions have been held by junior Kaylee McPherson, ninth grader Rachel Zeltinger and sophomore Jalena Ngep.

“We have a bunch of kids who are ready to gain varsity experience and may very well crack the singles line up before the season is over,” said Rusche. “It’s good for the varsity players to get pushed by this wave of younger players.”

“When our JV team beat North Branch, we swept the doubles,” exclaimed Coach Ruska. “I can’t wait to see how much they improve and push our current varsity players.”

Orioles Natalie Wills, Rachael Erickson, Chloe Lewis, Lily Masteller, Laura Paine, and Abby Kettlewell all contributed to the JV doubles sweep.

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