Sutton Julsrud driven for success as part of Mayo's powerful tennis team

Rochester Mayo senior and No. 2 singles player Sutton Julsrud has ridden toughness to become the second best player on a great Spartans tennis team.

Mayo's Sutton Julsrud tracks the ball during a No. 1 doubles match against Lourdes on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, at the Rochester Tennis Connection Outdoor Site. Post Bulletin file photo / Andrew Link

The days of hiding behind the tennis curtains at Rochester Indoor Tennis Connection are long gone.

Sutton Julsrud has gone from hide-and-go-seek at tennis facilities, to just go seek.

What she’s been chasing since she was 10 years old has been to become the best tennis player possible.


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Now, as one of the most vital cogs on a Mayo tennis team that’s ranked No. 2 in the state and began play in the Section 1AA tournament Tuesday, her “hiding” days are long gone.

“I started tennis lessons when I was 5 years old,” Julsrud said. “I did it for fun then, with group lessons. I’d mess around, running behind the curtains. But once I got to middle school, I got a lot more serious. By then, I wanted to be good.”

Julsrud was good enough as an eighth grader to already be getting varsity time with the Spartans. One year later, she was a varsity regular and has been building on that every season since.

All of that progress has made this season her most special one ever. Julsrud is now a senior and a go-to leader. The latter is a natural instinct, as she’s the lone senior on this team. Also helping it along is her approach to the game, one that Mayo coach Jeff Demaray covets.

“Sutton is a bulldog on the tennis court,” Demaray said. “She’s come up with big wins over her career with us. She elevated our team to the section championship in 2019, when she lost her first set in the semis against Lakeville North and then had great second and third sets to win (and give Mayo a 4-3 win in those semifinals).”

She came up huge again this year when the lights were bright, this time against an Edina team that was ranked No. 2 at the time. Mayo entered that dual on Sept. 17 having not beaten the Hornets since 2008.

Julsrud contributed mightily to changing those fortunes and with it changing the course of her team’s season.

“Against Edina, she had a big win, 7-6, 6-3 at No. 2 singles,” Demaray said. “ That helped give us a big win, 4-3, against an Edina team that we hadn’t beaten since 2008. When we did that, that gave us confidence that we can compete with any team in the state.”


Mayo's Sutton Julsrud returns the ball during a No. 2 singles girls tennis match against Century on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, at John Marshall High School in Rochester. Post Bulletin file photo / Traci Westcott

Julsrud is the second one in her family to play a key role on a Mayo tennis team. Older sister Taylor, who now plays at Minnesota State, Mankato, graduated last year from Mayo, where she was a standout in doubles.

The Julsrud sisters are wired similarly, with a large desire to compete. That includes against each other.

Though the tensions have risen high over the years when they’ve gone head to head, Sutton credits her big sister for helping her achieve her goals in the sport.

“We are super competitive with each other, but I’ve always looked up to Taylor,” Sutton said. “She made me keep playing during those times I wanted to quit. She always pushed me to go harder.”

She helped turn Sutton into the brand of player that Demaray covets most, a “bulldog” and a winner.

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
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