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Daly's fit at No. 2 singles seamless as Lourdes reaches state for 28th straight season

Lourdes' Caroline Daly has made shifting from No. 3 to No. 2 singles look easy this season. She's done it en route to another state tournament berth for the Eagles.

Lourdes, Winona Cotter Secton 1A Championship tennis
Lourdes’ Caroline Daly returns the ball during a No. 2 singles Section 1A championship team tennis match on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Rochester. Lourdes defeated Winona Cotter 7-0.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — When Caroline Daly found out this summer that Lourdes girls standout tennis player Ana Medina was transferring to Mayo, the Eagles junior honestly had mixed feelings.

On one hand, it saddened her to lose such a talented player as well as a friend.

But it also created a near-certain opportunity for Daly.

Medina was odds-on favorite to be the Eagles’ No. 2 singles player, behind obvious No. 1 Ryann Witter, with Daly slotting at No. 3 singles for the second straight season.

But Daly makes no bones about it. What she desired was to play second singles and hoped to give Medina a run for that position.

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This summer’s news about her heading to Mayo made Daly’s path to second singles nearly automatic.

Lourdes, Winona Cotter Secton 1A Championship tennis
Lourdes’ Caroline Daly is introduced before a Section 1A championship team tennis match on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Rochester. Lourdes defeated Winona Cotter 7-0.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Like everyone on this Eagles team, Daly was fond of Medina and what she’d brought to the team. But . . .

“When Ana transferred, there was a part of me that was saying, ‘Oh good, now I get to play No. 2 singles,' ” Daly said. “I thought it was going to be us two fighting it out for that spot. But now I wasn’t going to have to worry about it anymore.”

Daly’s only concern then became whether she’d be up to the increased competition happening at No. 2 singles.

“You are always then playing the other team’s second-best player,” Daly said. “That’s kind of nerve-wracking sometimes, especially against bigger teams from the Cities.”

But now, after six weeks of matches, the answer is clear. Daly is more than effective enough to have moved up a position. On a Lourdes team that is 16-3, Daly has lost just twice all season, both of them to Class AA opponents, once against Eden Prairie, once against Hill-Murray.

Daly recorded two more wins on Monday in the state-qualifying Section 1A team semifinals and finals at the Rochester Athletic Club. In No. 2-ranked Lourdes’ 7-0 win over Lake City, Daly won 6-0, 6-1. She followed that up with a 6-2, 6-0 win in the championship as the Eagles also blasted Winona Cotter 7-0, sending them to state for the 28th straight year.

A member of the Lourdes varsity since the seventh grade, it will be Daly’s fourth state trip, COVID-19 having taken away the 2020 state tournament.

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For all of that time, she’s always been among her team’s steadiest players. She’s never won with overpowering strokes and that remains the case, though she’s become somewhat more offensive this season. Daly’s opponents find her maddeningly consistent, rarely hitting “big” shots, but rarely missing.

It’s been a successful approach.

“Caroline is super consistent,” Lourdes first-year coach Ben Maes said. “She is someone who from the first point to the last point, she is going to compete. Plus, she’s smart and can figure out what her opponent doesn’t like and can exploit it by hitting to those spots.”

Daly was part of a Lourdes blitz in Monday’s section final, all of its players winning in straight sets against Cotter, a No. 3 seed which had beaten No. 2 Cannon Falls 6-1 in the semifinals.

Lourdes, Winona Cotter Secton 1A Championship tennis
Lourdes’ Reese Mauermann high-fives teammate Kaydra Quimby during a No. 3 doubles Section 1A championship team tennis match on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Rochester. Lourdes defeated Winona Cotter 7-0.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Witter, easily Lourdes’ best player, has big respect for the way Daly goes about her business. Not only has she seamlessly stepped into the No. 2 position, but what she brings off the court has resonated just as much.

“Caroline has really stepped up to the challenge,” Witter said. “Nothing has really seemed hard for her. She is a ‘wall.’ She has so much consistency. But the fact that she’s also taken control of points and become more aggressive has also been impressive. I didn’t necessarily see that coming from her.”

What Witter knew was coming, though, was another season of Daly being Daly, with her kindness, humor and inclusiveness.

“Caroline is an awesome leader,” Witter said. “She is so nice to everyone she meets, and it’s just infectious being around her, with her laughter and humor.”

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SEMIFINALS

Lourdes 7, Lake City 0

Singles: Ryann Witter (L) def. Brooke Bee 6-0, 6-0; Caroline Daly (L) def. Liberty Heise 6-0, 6-1; Erin Witter (L) def. Emily Mehrkens 6-0, 6-0; Katherine Sieve (L) def. Rylee Thieren 4-6, 6-2, 10-8. Doubles: Elyse Palen/Taylor Elliott (L) def. Alison Wallerich/Emma Berge 6-0, 6-1; Taylor Seelhammer/Ellie Liese (L) def. Sophia Mahn/Kalynn Hagedorn 6-0, 6-3; Sophia Hubbard/Molly Suino (L) def. Erica Wallerich/Kloey Sanderson 6-1, 6-3.

Winona Cotter 6, Cannon Falls 1

Singles: Alanna Kohner (WC) def. Lauren Ritz 6-0, 6-2; Grace Renk (WC) def. Josie Sjoquist 7-6, 4-6, 10-8; Anna Piechowski (WC) def. Sophia Nerison 6-3, 6-2; Olivia Moore (WC) cef. Livia Tennessen 6-1, 6-1. Doubles: Claire Dicke/Allison Hughes (CF) def. Kendra Fritts/Julia Staff 6-0, 6-2; ; AaliyahBreza/Hannah Casselman (WC) def. Kalee Anderson/Cami Anderson 6-3, 6-2; Jocelyn Rolfson/Mary Moore (WC) def. Abby Roepke/Noelle Swenson 7-5, 3-6, 7-5.

FINAL

Lourdes 7, Winona Cotter 0

Singles: Ryann Witter (L) def. Kohner 6-0, 6-0; Daly (L) def. Renk 6-2, 6-0; Palen (L) def. Piechowski 6-0, 6-1; Erin Witter (L) ef. Olivia Moore 6-0, 6-1. Doubles: Seelhammer/Sieve (L) def. Julia Staff 6-2, 6-3; Elliott/Ellie Liese (L) def. Aaliyah Breza/Hannah Casselman 6-0, 6-0; Mauerman/Kayda Quimby (L) def. Rolfson/Katy Staff 6-3, 6-3.

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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