Is this Rochester Mayo's year?
Rochester Mayo is a perennial state tournament entrant, having made it 25 times in 26 seasons, and the Spartans routinely advance to the Class 2A finals. But the dominance of west metro programs from the Twin Cities, specifically Edina and Minnetonka, has consistently stood in their way of taking the final step.
This year looks like Mayo's year. The Spartans lost to Minnetonka 6-1 in the finals last year, but most of their team strength is back this season.
It starts with the Loftus sisters, junior Claire and freshman Aoife, who paired to win the Class 2A doubles championship. Both are among the top singles players in the state. Claire is ranked No. 2 in the coaches association rankings, Aoife No. 7.
Always strong at doubles, this year Mayo boasts the deepest singles group in the state. It has three strong singles players in Keely Ryder, Ana Medina and Malea Diehn to fill the two remaining spots.
Mayo has gotten off to a strong start, beating Minnetonka 6-0 (with one match called because of heat) Thursday and winning its own tournament, the Mayo Invitational, beating Edina 6-1 in the finals.
New coach at Minnetonka
The two-time defending Class 2A champion Minnetonka Skippers face a double challenge: They must replace nine seniors from 2022, including singles champ Sarah Shahbaz and runner-up Kelsey Phillips, and they'll do that with a new head coach.
Jessa Richards, a former Minnetonka player, has taken over for Brent Lundell, whose contract was not renewed after last season despite leading the Skippers to the first two state championships in team history.
Richards twice played in the state tournament as a singles player for Minnetonka, in 2011 and 2012, and played collegiately at Augustana in South Dakota.
Despite the heavy losses, Minnetonka's program remains solid. Turnout is high, and the Skippers return seniors Karina Elvestrom and Sydney Prondzinski.
Minnetonka will face a bumpy road just getting to the state tournament. The Skippers will have to survive the gantlet that is the Lake Conference, which also includes No. 2 Class 2A Edina, No. 4 2A Wayzata and No. 10 2A Eden Prairie, before taking on the challenge of the Class 2A Section 2 tournament, which includes Eden Prairie and No. 8 2A Prior Lake.
Class 1A: Repeats in the offing?
With Mayo's ascension to the top of the Class 2A rankings, a Rochester sweep is a possibility this season.
Rochester Lourdes has long been a premier program in Class 1A. The Eagles won the small-school class in 2022, their 14th brick in a foundation of state tournament titles.
Top-ranked Lourdes graduated just two seniors from a year ago — one of them its top singles player in 2022, Ryann Witter — and appears deep enough to make it two in a row.
Lourdes' primary threat likely will be Breck. The Mustangs are ranked No. 2 in Class 1A and return senior Isabelle Einess, the 2022 singles champion.
Einess was the singles runner-up in 2021 when she was a sophomore at Minnehaha Academy. A residential move led to a transfer to Breck, where she won the title. She has the goods to win another, but she can expect a challenge from a former teammate. Senior Greta Johnson of Minnehaha Academy is ranked No. 2 in Class 1A.
By the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association
1. Rochester Mayo; 2. Edina; 3. Minnetonka; 4. Wayzata; 5. Elk River; 6. Mounds View; 7. Maple Grove; 8. Prior Lake; 9. Lakeville North; 10. (tie) Eden Prairie and Blake. Others to watch: Lakeville South, Roseville.
1. Cassandra Li, Eagan; 2. Claire Loftus, Rochester Mayo; 3. Ava Nelson, Elk River; 4. Karina Elvestrom, Minnetonka; 5. Lucy Nabedrick, Wayzata; 6. Keira Kelly, Lakeville North; 7. Aoife Loftus, Rochester Mayo; 8. (tie) Savannah Paul, Mound Westonka, and Rashi Singh, Edina; 10. (tie) Molly Miller, Bloomington Kennedy, and Malea Diehn, Rochester Mayo. Others to watch: Nana Vang, Blake; Melat Tabara, Eastview.
1. Rochester Lourdes; 2. Breck; 3. Pine City; 4. St. James; 5. New London-Spicer; 6. Staples-Motley; 7. Crookston; 8. East Grand Forks; 9. Thief River Falls; 10. (tie) Minnewaska Area and Litchfield. Other to watch: Osakis.
Individuals (six ranked)
1. Isabelle Einess, Breck; 2. Greta Johnson, Minnehaha Academy; 3. Avery Skaar, Thief River Falls; 4. Leah Maddock, Osakis; 5. Lauren Rutten, Staples-Motley; 6. Isla Dille, Litchfield.