Mayo girls tennis team believes a state title is on the horizon – Post Bulletin

Jeff Demaray knows what a state championship tennis team looks like.

He’s had the experience of coaching two of them, the Mayo boys in 2007 and the Mayo boys in 2011.

“Those two teams, they had so many (USTA) tournament players on them,” Demaray said.

That in mind, Demaray spent the summer months daydreaming about the prospects and possibilities of the team he’s coaching right now, the Mayo girls.

It just so happens that this outfit is loaded with girls who concentrate on the sport year-round and know all about USTA Northern Section tournament trips to Sioux Falls and Rapid City, SD; the Twin Cities; as well as plenty more tiny jaunts to the Rochester Athletic Club for USTA events.

For many of them, tennis is not a seasonal sport — it is always their season.

“This may be as deep a team as we’ve ever had,” said Demaray, who’s either been an assistant Mayo girls coach or its head person since 1990.

“We are absolutely loaded with young talent. We go six deep in singles. It’s going to be very competitive. We’ve got a lot of young girls who have worked extremely hard at their tennis and it’s going to be a battle to see who plays varsity.”

And yes, they pass the USTA tournaments litmus test. The one that seems to separate the elite teams from the rest.

That, as much as anything, has Demaray thinking big. It has him thinking that this bunch really could win a state title. And if not this season, then next.

It would be a first for the Mayo girls, who have been to the state tournament 24 of the last 25 years but have never won it all.

“Even though we are young (just one senior on the roster and its top two players sophomore Claire Loftus and eighth-grade sister Aoife Loftus), we have a lot of girls who have played in competitive matches,” Demaray said. “We have six (of its top seven players) back from last year. We are well positioned. We want to challenge for a state title.”

Minnetonka might read that last statement and smirk.

The Skippers are not only the state’s defending Class AA champion, but they return all but one of their top 10 players from a year ago. And they are mature. Seven of their best players are seniors.

So how in the heck is Mayo — with a bunch of its top talent sophomores and below — even in the conversation with Minnetonka?

Well, because Demaray sees what he sees and he knows what he knows. Also on Mayo’s side is that it was ranked as high as second in the state last year.

“I do think that Minnetonka is the clear favorite,” he said. “But I also think that we have a team that worked the hardest in the offseason. We have players who have put in the most time. We have tournament players and that is a real asset. They are really good and they want to win. But a lot of things have to go into (having a shot at a state title). We have a lot of things that we have to focus on first before we get to that point (in late October).”

Mayo has two seniors on its team, Ella Dozois and Jorden Ruskell. Dozois has been playing tennis for Mayo since the seventh grade. She knows what good teams look like. She also knows what they act like.

This latest Mayo edition, Dozois is sure, is special. She says that goes far beyond tennis strokes. It has to do with character and things like young players mixing nicely with older players

Dozois says it’s all there.

“Our team chemistry is so good,” Dozois said. “We all get along super well. We all hang around each other outside of tennis and all have positive energy. All of us want to be great and help each other improve. It’s a good mix of young and old. Jorden and I, as seniors, we help the young girls out a lot and really enjoy having them on our team. They are always so bubbly and super positive. They are fun to be around.”

Dozois is like Demaray. She is stoked for this season. There is something special in the water.

“We are all super excited,” she said. “We’ve been looking forward to this season ever since last season ended. We have a really good feeling this year.”

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