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Hopkins tennis captain Rachel Kelly hits a forehand return against the state’s top-ranked Class AA player, Karin Young of Eastview, in a dual match Sept. 26, at Hopkins High.

Earlier this season Eastview High ninth-grader Karin Young earned the state’s No. 1 tennis ranking the hard way by beating defending state champion Nicole Copeland from Edina.

In a dual meet at Hopkins High Wednesday, Sept. 26, Hopkins High captain Rachel Kelly had a chance to challenge Young’s state ranking. Going into the match, Kelly had a 12-1 record his season. However, most of her matches had been at No. 2 singles. She was elevated to the No. 1 spot against Young because Hopkins’ No. 1, Maddie Suk, was unavailable to play that day.

Kelly liked the chance to play against the state’s No. 1, and although she lost a 6-1, 6-2 decision, there were some highlights. In the second set for instance, Kelly hit back-bo-back, cross-court forehand returns that Young had no chance to reach. That was impressive because there are very few balls Young doesn’t get to.

“Playing against the No. 1 player is tough, especially when it’s Karin,” Kelly said after the match. “Going into it, I knew I had to bring my ‘A’ game and go for every ball. Karin is a very smart player, who doesn’t overhit. I had played against her in a few matches a long time ago.”

Kelly’s only other loss this year was against another top-10 state player, Edina’s Andrea Jansson, who plays No. 2 in the Hornet lineup with Copeland holding down the No. 1 spot. 

Training against Suk every day in practice has helped Kelly become a better tennis player.

“It is always good to practice against someone who is better,” said Kelly. “Maddie and I make each other work hard.”

The day after she battled Eastview’s Young, Kelly won Hopkins’ only point in a 6-1 loss to Minnetonka by beating Annika Elvestrom, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2). Elvestrom has been ranked in the top 10 in state and holds a victory over Edina’s Copeland.

Minnetonka coach Dave Stearns was impressed by Kelly’s performance.

“She has textbook strokes,” said Stearns. “She knows how to use the court and how to restart points. I was very impressed with her overall game.”

Seniors Kelly and Suk are captains along with senior twins Carli and Amaya Wolpert. A third Wolpert sister, Sydney, is also in the Royals’ starting lineup.

Hopkins has an 11-4 record, and is one of the challengers to Edina for the Section 6AA title. Tournament play began on Tuesday, Oct. 2, after this edition had gone to press.

It is almost a foregone conclusion that Edina will advance to state out of the section.

Earlier this fall, Hopkins head coach Kenny Novak Jr. said, “To beat Edina, we would probably have to win all four singles matches.”

That is certainly a tall order with Copeland and Jansson playing the top two positions in the Hornet singles lineup. Both of them will be playing NCAA Division I tennis in the near future. Kelly also has her sights set on college tennis.

Kelly is currently looking at options for college. As a six-year varsity player for Hopkins, and most likely a three-time All-Lake Conference selection, she is the kind of player colleges like to recruit.

“I have been talking with a couple college coaches,” she said. “Hopefully, something works out.”

Two of the Hopkins fans who seldom miss a match are captain’s parents, Mike and Jen Kelly.

“My dad tries to make it to every match, and if he isn’t there, my mom is there,” said Kelly. Most of the time, as was the case for the Eastview match, both parents are there, supporting their daughter.

 

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