Spartan tennis falls to Lumberjacks to end winning streak

At the start of the tennis season, a young Spartan team traveled to Cloquet to face the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Lumberjacks. Superior lost its season opener 5-2, but the Spartans have grown as a team since then.

SHS Tennis
Superior's Carly Conner, right, returns a shot as teammate Rikki Berchild looks on during their number one doubles match in Superior on Tuesday. (Jed Carlson/

At the start of the tennis season, a young Spartan team traveled to Cloquet to face the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Lumberjacks. Superior lost its season opener 5-2, but the Spartans have grown as a team since then.

In the past week, the Superior High School girls tennis team won three matches in a row, all against Duluth teams. Spartan coach Pete Conley said the string of victories was just the boost Superior needed.

"They're now playing with confidence," Conley said. "Prior to that point I knew they had the ability, but now with that confidence, they also know it."

Tuesday, Superior hosted the Lumberjacks in a rematch. C-E-C is one of the top teams this year along with Hermantown, and the Lumberjacks again topped the Spartans, 5-0 after the match was called due to darkness.

Even though the Spartans did not win their match, Conley said he has seen immense growth from Superior.


"Last year we graduated a lot of seniors, so it took a while to fill those shoes and get the kids in those positions to feel comfortable being there," Conley said. "There are still some matches where you can see that inexperience come out."

One of the most intense battles of the evening took place at No. 1 doubles with Spartans Rikki Berchild and Carly Connor.

Berchild and Connor, seniors, did not start out at No. 1 doubles when the season began. When the Spartans faced the Lumberjacks earlier this year, Berchild played at No. 1 singles and Carly Connor did not play in the meet.

"We started out singles and then he would throw us into doubles and then we'd do singles again, but now I think we're going to be doing doubles the rest of the year," Berchild said.

The senior duo started out strong against the Lumberjacks in the opening set Tuesday. Superior took the first two points on Connor's serve, but C-E-C came back to tie it at 30-30 and eventually pushed the game to deuce. After a drawn out battle at deuce, the Spartans finally claimed the first game and then broke the Lumberjacks to go up 2-0.

Superior didn't falter after its fast start, and Berchild and Connor took the opening set 6-3.

The Spartans hit their first snag at No. 1 doubles in the second set. Early in the set, Berchild hit was looked like and ace serve, but C-E-C asked to have the play redone. The Lumberjack players said Berchild had not called the score correctly.

"That was a ridiculous call actually," Berchild said. "It was 30-40, and I said 'ad out' when I got to the other side, which is the same difference. They called it and made a big deal about how I'd said 'ad out,' so we had to redo the point."


"Our coach said we shouldn't have even had to do that," Connor said. "We just really didn't feel like arguing I guess."

Both players were frustrated by the call, and the Lumberjacks took advantage of the opportunity to move ahead 2-1. The Spartans regained their composure to tie the set at 3-3 and 4-4 before C-E-C won to force a third set.

Superior was broken twice to start the third set, and the Spartans found themselves trying to dig out of a 4-0 hole.

The Spartans got their first point of the set by breaking C-E-C in the fifth game and held in the sixth to trail 4-2. Superior would get as close as 5-3 but could make up enough ground to take the match from the Lumberjacks.

"Our opponents started out a little bit weaker," Berchild said. "During warm-ups they weren't showing us their real serves, so that took us by surprise. As they started warming up in the sets, they just started getting better and better."

On Thursday, the Spartans are scheduled to play Duluth East in Superior at 4:15 p.m.

Cloquet 5, Superior 0



1. Kelsey Collier (C) def. Natalie Burger 6-0, 6-4.

2. Alicen Johnson (C) def. Raya Kosey 6-3, 6-3.

3. Savanna Ellena (C) def. Jillisa Gallindo 6-1, 6-1.


1. Savannah Hanson/Reilly Kedrowski (C) def. Carly Connor/Rikki Berchild 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

2. Kara Cresap/Kalie Shevich (C) def. Amanda Peterson/Chelsea Breimon 7-5, 3-6, 7-5.

Spartans 4, Central 3

The Superior girls won its third straight match by a 4-3 score as the Spartans defeated Duluth Central Thursday evening at the SHS tennis courts.


"This was a huge win for us," SHS coach Pete Conley said. "A team is truly measured by how they respond to a loss. The last time we played Central we got beat 5-2 and this proves how much they have progressed over the last couple of weeks."

Carly Connor, Natalie Burger and Raya Kosey won singles matches for the Spartans while Christine Johnstad and Sarah Nikstad won at No. 2 doubles.

"Carly had an awesome match," Conley said. "She was down 0-5 in the first set and came back to win that set 7-5, and then took the second set 6-2. She had a slow start, but finished very strong.

The Spartans started last week with wins over Duluth Denfeld and Duluth Marshall.

The Spartans host Duluth East at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Superior 4, Central 3


1. Megan Harold (C) def. Rikki Berchild 6-3, 6-1; 2. Carly Connor (S) def. Brittney Duhaime 7-5, 6-2; 3. Natalie Burger (S) def. Naomi Robinson 6-2, 6-3; 4. Raya Kosey (S) def. Hayley Smith 6-0, 6-0



1. Amanda Pihlaja/Molly Denney (C) def. Amanda Peterson/Chelsea Breimon 6-0, 6-0; 2. Christine Johnstad/Sarah Nikstad (S) def. Maritha Dalager/Lisa Erickson 7-5, 6-4; 3. Rachael Kerr/Caitlyn Lavalier (C) def. Sara Balcer/Jillisa Gallindo 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4)

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