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Timing was everything with Neel's move

As Hildy Neel saw it, her daughter Ingrid’s leap to the Rochester Mayo boys tennis team this year came at precisely the right time.

Ingrid knew the boys on the team thanks to private club lessons with them, the seventh-grader was joining the boys team at a young enough age that she wasn’t a full grown girl yet, she could obviously compete, and she knew she was going to help make the team better.

She certainly did the latter. Playing No. 3 singles for the Spartans, Ingrid won all three of her matches during the state tournament, an event that ended with Mayo claiming the championship.

"We definitely made the right move in having Ingrid play with he boys," Hildy said.

For the Neels, there were obvious payoffs by having Ingrid — already the top high school girls player in Minnesota— try boys tennis. They watched her evolve as a player as she was forced to adjust to the speed and power of the boys game. There was the joy that came with winning a state team championship. And finally, there was all of the money saved by having her stay in Minnesota and play tennis, rather than shipping this top-10 ranked 13-year-old in the country to an academy in Florida or New York. The Neels are in no hurry to leave Minnesota, even if it might benefit Ingrid’s tennis.

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"We’re like everyone else, we like Rochester," Hildy said. "We also want inexpensive (tennis), we want it to be fun, and we want it to be local. In another year we’ll have to re-evaluate if all of those things are still holding true by staying here."

For at least this next school year, Hildy says that Ingrid will stay in Rochester. There will be one change, however. She’s going to be home schooled rather than attend Friedell Middle School. With all of the traveling that Ingrid does for national tournaments, the Neels like the scheduling flexibility that home schooling allows.

What Hildy says hasn’t been decided is whether Ingrid will play high school tennis in 2011-12. She could opt to play girls tennis this fall for Mayo, play boys tennis for Mayo in the spring, or do neither. Not an option is playing both; that’s disallowed by the Minnesota State High School League.

For now, Ingrid says she’s leaning toward playing again on the boys team, though she hasn’t ruled anything out yet.

One thing she doesn’t expect to happen is for many other girls to follow her lead, and give boys tennis — or any other boys sport — a try.

"My situation to try it was perfect," Ingrid said. "That’s just not going to happen all the time. I don’t think too many girls are going to do it. It’s a big decision, and I think they might be a little bit scared to try."

 

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