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GIRLS TENNIS: UND-bound senior has best year to date

Mimi Yunker

After three straight close calls in the North Dakota state singles tournament, Mimi Yunker decided to play doubles as a junior.

“She had a good run with the singles and fell a little bit short,” Grand Forks Red River coach Greg LaDouceur said. “It was maybe a little frustrating. She had a lot of pressure on her being so successful in the region. I think that may have had a little something to do with going doubles last year. She was much more relaxed.

“But this year, she is ready for that challenge.”

After winning the state doubles championship last year, Yunker has returned for her senior season with her best year to date. She enters this weekend’s state tournament in Bismarck with an undefeated record and as the East Region singles champion.

The UND-bound Yunker has won the region title twice before as an eighth-grader and a freshman, but lost in the state finals both years. This year won’t be any easier.

Challengers including Bismarck St. Mary’s Caitlin Bakke, the defending state singles champion and runner-up in 2012, West Fargo’s Sammie Smith, who will play college at Minnesota State-Moorhead and Red River teammate Cindy Lim.

But Yunker is better prepared this season than the past.

“From the get-go, her focus has been tremendous,” LaDouceur said. “She decided early on that she was going to go singles. From that point, her focus has been that much better. She has been working that much harder in practice and doing a lot of good things — focusing and concentrating on shots and thinking out her points a little bit. I see she is a little bit hungry. She has that hunger feeling back in her again.”

Yunker said she wants to play her style of game and not fall into the trap of playing her opponent’s style. That’s what she did in the East Region tournament, where she rolled to the title without dropping a set.

Her play also has led the way for the Roughriders in the team competition, where they are the overwhelming favorite to win a 13th consecutive championship. The team tournament begins with two rounds today. The championship is Friday morning.

Yunker and Lim make the Roughriders a tough matchup for opponents.

“You’ve got two of the top players in the state,” LaDouceur said. “There are plenty of other very good players there as well, but when you can put those two in your lineup somewhere, that poses problems for a lot of teams.”

This weekend will mark the first time that Bismarck has hosted the girls state tournament since 2003.

“It’s always an exciting time,” LaDouceur said. “The girls are pretty excited about the opportunity that they are going to have here and we’re looking forward to some good tennis.

“It’s a very solid draw. Everyone has to be ready to go — my girls included. Nothing is going to be handed to them.”

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 12th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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