Final countdown: Austin tennis seniors are finishing strong as their final season winds down

Published 8:34 pm Monday, September 11, 2023

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Three long-time seniors were at their best for the Packers, but the team couldn’t register a victory in a 4-3 loss to Cannon Falls in Paulson Courts Monday.

Senior Gracie Schmitt scored a 6-0, 6-2 win at No. 1 singles and the No. 1 duo of twin sisters Katie and Abby VanPelt won 6-4, 6-4.

Schmitt, who is now 10-4 on the season, has been playing tennis since she was three years old and she learned the game from her older sisters Chloe and Reana, who were also former No. 1 singles players for the Packers (3-10 overall). 

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Like she always has, Gracie took a patient approach to her match on Monday as she continued making returns until her opponent made a mistake.

You always have to push to get the next ball, whether you think you can get it or not,” Gracie said. “You always have to be patient, even if you think you can hit a winner, you can’t always do that.” 

Gracie enters every match knowing she will see the best player on the opposing team and she’s learned to bring her best every time she takes the court.

Being number one brings a lot of pressure, but playing better players makes you better,” Gracie said. “I think it’s always beneficial, even if they’re going to beat you.”

The VanPelts, who are 7-2 this season, also know what it’s like to take the best as they have grown accustomed to taking on high level players.

A lot of the girls match our competitive level (at number one) and that makes it fun,” Katie said. “We’re just going to keep having fun and we’re going to leave it all out there on the court this year.”

Katie and Abby have been doubles partners for four years now and they’re also highly involved in FFA, which means they’ve had to balance that with tennis every season. This year, they missed a few matches because they had to compete at the Minnesota State Fair.

With this being their last season as a tennis duo, Abby and Katie are soaking it up and making lasting memories together.

“I’m just enjoying this year because I’ve got nothing to lose. We’re leaving it all out there every time we play. We have some new players, but we’ve been close against a lot of the top schools. Everybody’s been working really hard,” Abby said.  “It’s a lot of pressure every time (we play), because it’s so competitive at the one spot.”

Katie is relishing her final tennis season with Abby.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Katie said. “I don’t know a lot of people who get the same partner for four years. It’s been a privilege.”

Austin head coach Jeff Anderson has coached all three of the seniors throughout their time on the varsity team. He’s seen them grow throughout the years and he knows they will be missed when their time is up with the Packers.

“They are all such great kids and really good leaders,” Anderson said. “They have all left a great mark on Austin tennis. They are really good players and even better young women. I am proud to be their coach.”

CF 4, Austin 3


No. 1 Gracie Schmitt (A) def. Josie Sjoquist (CF) 6-0, 6-2 

No. 2 Livia Tennessen (CF) def. Ella Nack (A) 6-0, 6-0 

No. 3 Sophia Nerison (CF) def. Yazmine Huerta (A) 6-1, 6-2 

No. 4 Miranda Mandelkow (CF) def. Sophia Meyer (A) 6-0, 6-3 


No. 1 Abby VanPelt/Katie VanPelt (A) def. Cami Anderson/Abby Roepke (CF) 6-4, 6-4 

No. 2 Seanna Kubas/Jenna Hetzel (A) def. Julia Reed/Noelle Swenson (CF) 6-1, 6-4 

No. 3 Emma Brechtel/Malena Mandelkow (CF) def. Payton Nelson/Claudia Slinden (A) 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3