Aney's run ends with no regrets

MINNEAPOLIS — Was it worth it?

MINNEAPOLIS — Was it worth it?

Oh yes, Jessie Aney said, incredibly so.

Aney, the former Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year, on Thursday became the first girl to play in an individual state boys tennis tournament.

"I'm so glad I played boys tennis," said the Rochester Century senior, who as an eighth-grader won the state girls singles championship, and as a freshman teamed with sister Katie Aney to win the girls doubles title.

Jessie hadn't played high school tennis since. Not until this year, when she made the switch to the boys team.


"It was even more fun than I thought it would be," Jessie said. "Just the connection I had with the guys on our team, and playing with my (freshman) brother (Nick) this year. It was great."

Aney also didn't mind what went on Thursday, when she played in front of curious and packed crowds in both her matches at the University of Minnesota's Baseline Tennis Center. It ended with her losing in straight sets in the quarterfinals. But that did nothing to dampen her enthusiasm for the experience.

"Sometimes I'd look around (at the crowd) during my matches and just smile," said Aney, who was unbeaten this season, ranked sixth in the state, and the Section 1AA champion. "I love playing in front of a lot of people and I love when the crowd gets into the matches. It just gets me pumped up and wanting to make great shots. It's what tennis is all about."

The Rochester Century senior, as expected, made it safely through the first round, beating St. Paul Como Park's Nathan Parsons 7-6 (7-3 tie-breaker), 6-3.

That set her up for what figured to be easily her toughest challenge this season. She was meeting the No. 2-ranked player in the state, Forest Lake junior Toby Boyer. Boyer has already committed to play at the University of Nebraska in two years and is considered among the top 55 high school juniors in the country.

Aney, who's bound for women's tennis power University of North Carolina in the fall, is ranked in the top 10 in the country for girls 18-under.

So what separated the two? Well, just what Aney figured would separate them.

"It is hard to compete with a guy who is just as talented as you are, but also taller, stronger and faster," Aney said. "That's the difference between an elite boys player and an elite girls player."


Aney gave Boyer some trouble in the first set, taking two games from him. But after that, the Forest Lake junior settled in and ended the match with a second-set 6-0 win.

Aney left the courts contented.

"It was fun, having a good match with a really good player," she said. "There is nothing I could have done differently to beat him. I have no regrets."

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