NEW ULM - If New Ulm girls' tennis doubles teammates Marissa Johnson and Hannah Jakel have one main weakness, it's that they're a little bit too good at doing what they do best.
In their No. 1 doubles match against Mankato East's Kjersten Lemke and Paige Lingbeck on Monday, Johnson and Jakel had the early momentum and took an early lead. However, once Lemke and Lingbeck found out how to counteract Johnson and Jakel's style of play, the Mankato East pair rallied for a 6-3, 6-0 win that helped the Cougars earn a 7-0 sweep against the Eagles on the day.
"We had them figured out from the start, we kind of figured out how to play against their playing style," Jakel said. "As soon as they did the same to us, figure out how we play and how we work together, they were able to take advantage of that."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm’s Marissa Johnson returns a volley during number one doubles play against Mankato East Monday at NUHS.
The problem for Johnson and Jakel was that once Lemke and Lingbeck adapted to their style of play, they weren't able to switch things up enough to break Lemke and Lingbeck's rhythm.
"It was hard to switch it up, especially since that's how we always play," Johnson said.
"It's hard to stray from the norm and what works for us," Jakel added.
Jakel won her opening service game to give New Ulm the early lead in the match, but Lemke served to victory in the next game with her fierce spin-serve to tie the set at 1-1.
Mankato East won the third game after it went to deuce, but Johnson and Jakel won the next game without dropping a point and then took a 3-2 lead by winning a deuce in the fifth game.
However, Lemke and Lingbeck hit their stride from that point on, allowing Johnson and Jakel only a single point in winning the next three games.
Although the Mankato East pair didn't lose a game the rest of the match, Johnson and Jakel made them work hard early in the second set, in which the first three games went to deuce. Some strong play at the net by both Cougars allowed them to survive all three deuces, setting up their second-set sweep.
"I feel like we started out really good and we just got kind of frustrated by the end," Johnson said. "Mankato's a really good team, and we were just really happy that we did as good as we did, because we weren't expecting to. We were going to try our best, but we weren't expecting to get very far, and it was really exciting to get those points in the beginning."
The Mankato East players exerted their dominance by winning in straight sets in every other match as well, adapting to the breezy conditions better than their New Ulm counterparts.
The closest match was played at No. 3 singles between New Ulm's Maya Sarkar and Mankato East's Jessica Kuchenmeister, where Kuchenmeister earned a narrow 7-5, 6-4 victory.
In the other singles matches, Libby Andrego defeated Laura Albrecht 6-1, 6-2 at No. 1, Katie Karkosa won 6-0, 6-1 against Jennifer Martins at No. 2 and Olivia Lund won 6-0, 6-2 against Miriam Jakel at No. 4.
At No. 2 doubles, Justine Paskar and Katelyn Scharmer won 6-0, 6-0 against Emma Vranich and Gracelyn Sarkar and at No. 3 doubles Jia Tam and Caylin Steinberg won 6-2, 6-2 against Mattea Sievert and Sicily Trullinger.
"I think the girls did really well today considering we were playing Mankato East," New Ulm head coach Kevin Maudal said "I think they did as well as when we played them earlier in the Invitational, so it's a learning curve that we have to see how they do. We play them again on Saturday, so we'll see if they improve any and see if it's different when the wind isn't blowing."
The Eagles will play on the road against Redwood Valley today, then will travel to Fairmont on Thursday before playing in the Mankato Invite on Saturday.
"We played [Redwood Valley] already, and they beat us 6-1, so we're hoping to improve on that when we play them again," Maudal said. "That was a really hot day, so hopefully [today] will be better."