ROGERS – Depth has been the key for the Delano girls tennis team this season. That’s been put to the test down the stretch this season but the Tigers have been up for the challenge.
With multiple lineup changes throughout the past few matches, one thing has remained constant for the Tigers – they’re winning matches.
With a 5-2 win over Buffalo Monday, Delano is headed to the Section 5AA championship where they’ll look to keep their impressive season rolling.
“All in all, the girls played well,” Delano coach Kim Finn said. “They were ready. They’re good players. They’re neighbors so we kind of know each other well. It was a nice win.”
Kaitlyn Pink set the tone for Delano at No. 3 singles with a dominant 6-0, 6-0 win. That kept her perfect record intact as she picked up the first win of the day for Delano.
After a win at No. 1 singles and No. 4 singles gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead, Aubrey Wittwer delivered for the Tigers with a 6-2, 6-2 victory at No. 2 singles.
“Both Audrey and Kaitlyn are true competitors,” Finn said. “With those two, I know I can put them anywhere and they are going to compete. That’s nice to have.”
CJ Stolfa and Sydney Trautman would add a win at No. 3 doubles to give Delano a 3-2 lead. That set up Addie Persian and Isabelle King to clinch the win for the Tigers with a 7-5, 6-2 win at No. 2 doubles sending Delano to the section championship match.
“It feels wonderful,” Finn said. “It’s been a while. It’s been a great season.”
“It feels really good,” Olivia Bekkala added. “Having it be my senior year and going this far is pretty exciting.”
Bekkala and teammate Katelyn Ring put the finishing touches on the win at No. 1 doubles for the Tigers. They won their match to complete the sweep of all three doubles matches for Delano.
Delano’s run to section championship match has been an impressive story. It’s taken an entire team willing to do whatever it takes. About a month before the postseason began, Finn decided to mix up the lineup and move Bekkala from No. 1 singles to No. 1 doubles.
“I love doubles too because it’s really fun,” Bekkala said about the switch. “I love playing with Katelyn. If it gets the team a point, that’s all that matters. I’m fine playing wherever.”
With Bekkala making the move to doubles, that forced the other singles players to step up as well. Bella Molitor has moved up to No. 1 singles, while Wittwer and Pink have stepped up their games as well.
“It’s paid off,” Finn said. “We had to make a change. I’m very proud of the way the girls have stood up. That’s what is nice about having a deep team. We have a deep team with a lot of equal abilities. You can put them anywhere and they’ll do the job.”
Changes to the lineup have been nothing new for the Tigers. Even as recently as last week, the changes kept coming but so have the wins.
“With all the stuff going on, it just shows with our team that we’re able to do it,” Bekkala said. “I think we’re just a really strong team.”
Delano will take on Maple Grove in the Section 5AA championship Thursday. Maple Grove knocked off No. 1 Wayzata 5-2 in their semifinal matchup. It will be the second time Delano and Maple Grove have faced off this season.
“I think they’re going to be coming back with a different lineup than the last time we played them,” Finn said. “I think they were a little surprised when we played them.”
Delano beat Maple Grove 5-2 in their lone matchup earlier this season, but Finn knows how much things can change since that matchup.
“We’ll just see,” Finn said about the matchup. “It’s always game by game. I’ll prepare them differently this time than we did Buffalo. I know they’re thinking we already beat them but it’s a whole different ball game now.”
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Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports