Woelber tough in Class A state tennis tournament appearance

Pipestone Area’s Toryn Woelber went out with a bang at the girls’ Class A state tennis tournament Thursday at the Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center in Minneapolis. A literal bang, as the Section 3A singles champion’s heavy forehand shots kept her in both the matches she played at the season’s culminating event. 

Despite getting down early in her state-tournament opener against Litchfield’s Isla Dille, Woelber continued to battle with her potent forehand and improved backhand. Unfortunately for the senior, who qualified with Emma Stahl for the doubles tournament last year, Woelber’s first serves weren’t as precise as they needed to be to keep her in the match. Still, after bowing out in the first set, 2-6, Woelber snatched three games in the second set to give her a modicum of belief heading into her consolation match against Mounds Park Academy’s Freya Rahm.

“She (Dille) was able to move me around and whenever I hit my serve short, she knew where to put it,” Woelber said. “I needed to be better with my first serves so she’d have to play it, rather than step up my second serve and place it where she wanted.”

“I had the most success with my forehand and was able to win a lot of points with it. And I knew where I wanted to put it, but I wasn’t always able to get it there…not enough to stay in the match.”

Often her own worst critic, Woelber knew she needed to focus on her serve and playing loose in her consolation match.

“She might have gotten down on herself a bit in the first one, at certain points in the match, but she played till the end – gave 100 percent,” Pipestone Area head tennis coach Colin Hoppe said. “In the second one, you could tell she was out there making sure she had fun and enjoy the match.”

“She changed her whole mentality around. And her first serves were a million times better; her ground strokes were crisper and the only thing that kept her from advancing on was the Mounds Park girl was able to keep one point ahead of Toryn. You can look at it as a 3-6, 3-6 loss, but those games in between that she lost, Toryn was right there with her, the whole way; a couple points go Toryn’s way and she could easily have advanced.”

Although she came back with a better mindset and more precise shots, Woelber’s game simply wasn’t as polished as Rahm’s in the consolation quarterfinals. The Mounds Park Academy (St. Paul) senior just had more in her arsenal to combat Woelber’s thunderous forehand and sharp serve.

“Making it to the state tournament is a very big accomplishment, in any sport,” Hoppe said. “Toryn was happy to be there, happy to compete there; the nice thing about the tournament is you’re guaranteed two matches, no matter what. 

“The 16 girls that make it to the tournament are all very deserving of being there; many have been playing since they were little kids and many don’t do other sports. They have the time, especially in the Cities, and the facilities and the drive to fine-tune their strokes. I watched the top singles player compete and she was like a machine. 

“That’s what we’ll be working on in the future. I know it’s a short season, but over the summer, and maybe over the winter, we’re going to do everything we can to develop our arsenal and fine-tune our groundstrokes so we can get individuals and maybe the team to state next fall.”

As Hoppe suggested, just making it to state to compete against a Cities-laden field of the state’s top players was not only an accomplishment, but a thrill as well.

“Yeah, I was pretty nervous, but I was just excited to be here,” said Woelber, who will now focus on preparing herself to help take the PAS softball team back to the Class AA state tournament in the spring. “It was exciting to be up here again and see and play against so many good players – happy to be a part of it.”

As for Hoppe and Woelber’s younger teammates, who hope to qualify individuals and, perhaps, the team for state next fall, he hopes to continue to build on the Arrows’ former skipper’s development of the tennis program.

“Ed Gustafson has put in a lot of time, a lot of years and a lot of lessons to make them the players they are,” he said. “All I’ve done is try to polish off the edges, fine-tune their shots and make them better. They’ve all made drastic leaps in becoming better players and, only being down one senior – an important senior mind you – we have a lot to look forward to next fall.”