Hopkins High’s 1-2 tennis punch of juniors Maddie Suk and Rachel Kelly already has two big knockouts this fall.
Suk and Kelly were both 4-0 in singles matches following the Royals’ 5-2 victory over Delano/Rockford last week. Just as importantly, the team stood 4-0 and had earned a promotion to the No. 4 spot in the state Class AA rankings.
How did Hopkins’ ranking evolve. Well, for starters, two of the Royals four victims qualified for state last season – Prior Lake and Delano/Rockford. Prior Lake, which took fourth in the 2016 state tourney, lost to the Royals on opening day, 5-2. That same day, the Royals defeated Princeton 6-1. Throw in a 7-0 win over Eastview, and it’s easy to see how Hopkins is gaining statewide recognition.
“We want to play against teams that are good,” said Hopkins head coach Kenny Novak Jr. “We’re improving, but some of the toughest matches will be the Lake Conference matches. Edina is still a step ahead of everyone else, with the No. 1 and 2-ranked players in the state [Sophia Reddy and Nicole Copeland]. Wayzata has its top 12 returning from last year, and, although two of Minnetonka’s better girls are not playing this year, they were so deep last year.”
Suk, a lefthander, and Kelly, a righthander, are among the Lake Conference’s best. This is Suk’s fourth season as Hopkins’ No. 1 singles player and Kelly’s third season at No. 2.
Both girls beat their opponents from Delano/Rockford, 6-1, 6-0. Kelly’s match was three minutes shorter than Suk’s.
“We play these girls every year, and it’s always close,” said Suk after the match. “We beat Delano/Rockford 4-3 last year.”
Suk and Kelly have grown into their leadership roles, and they take that responsibility seriously.
“As fifth-year players we know the coaches and the other players well,” said Suk. “We are comfortable being role models. We have to set the example by positive and focused.”
“A big part of leadership is encouraging the other girls,” Kelly added.
Suk and Kelly are vocal cheerleaders during the matches, and some of the younger girls especially appreciate the attention they get from No. 1 and 2.
What is the outlook for the season?
“I think we can be really good,” said Suk. “Hopefully, at some point, we’ll take on Edina.”
“We are excited for every match,” said Kelly. “It was exciting to beat a team like Prior Lake. Now we have to keep it rolling.”
In addition to cheering for their teammates, Suk and Kelly are looking for ways to build confidence among the varsity players.
“Some of them are new to varsity this year,” said Kelly. “Once they’ve played a few matches, it is less stressful and more fun. We tell them not to worry too much.”
“Our doubles are developing,” said Novak. “We’re still searching for combinations.”
One combination that shows promise is the team that won the first doubles point against Delano/Rockford – junior Amaya Wolpert and sophomore Mary Murphy.
Another Wolpert sister, Carli, has been playing well at fourth singles. Third singles player Yelena Hallman is in her second year in that key position.
“I am pleased with the work our girls have put in – both in the offseason and during the season,” said Novak. “We are very strong at 1 and 2 with Maddie and Rachel. Maddie is a player who doesn’t make many mistakes. She is stronger physically this year. Rachel is a very solid No. 2, who only had three losses last season. She has a good serve and is a very versatile player.”
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