Ronkowski wins second straight singles title

MINOT -- Junior Callie Ronkowski successfully defended her singles title Saturday to help Grand Forks Red River complete a sweep of the North Dakota state tennis tournament.

Callie Ronkowski hits a forehand to Bismarck Century's Hallie Welk during the North Dakota state girls singles championship Saturday in Bismarck. Ronkowski won her second straight singles title 7-6 (7-1), 7-5. Photo by T.J. Allick/Minot Daily News.

MINOT -- Junior Callie Ronkowski successfully defended her singles title Saturday to help Grand Forks Red River complete a sweep of the North Dakota state tennis tournament.

Ronkowski rallied in both sets to defeat Bismarck Century's Hallie Welk 7-6 (7-1), 7-5 at the Cameron Indoor Tennis Center.

It was the second straight state title for the Ronkowski, who defeated Shanley's Andrea Rognlien to win last year's title.

"It's really special this time because it was a close match," Ronkowski said. "It makes it that much more special to win."

Ronkowski was down in the first set 6-5, but forced a tiebreaker and won it decisively, 7-1. The junior also trailed in the second set, but won three straight games to take it 7-5, amidst a crowd that favored Welk, who is the West Region champion.


"I was down, but I was just really focused like it was my last point every time," Ronkowski said of dealing with the pressure. "I was going to do whatever I had to do to win."

It was the closest match of the season for Ronkowski.

"It's nice to be pushed a little bit," she said. "It makes it that much more special and sweeter when you do get the win."

Welk was bidding to become the second non-Grand Forks player to win the state title since 1991 and the first since 1998, when Bismarck Century's Renae Wald took first. But the title will return to Grand Forks for the 11th straight year and to Red River for the eighth straight.

Ronkowski's singles win was followed almost immediately by a doubles championship win by Red River's Lalangi Marasinghe and Mimi Yunker that capped the state title sweep for the Roughriders, who won the team title on Friday.

"It was nice to win the team stuff, but it's always nice when you can win both the singles and doubles also," Ronkowski said.

Red River duo sets mark

Record-breaking performances are nothing new on the Grand Forks Red River girls tennis team. Saturday, Marasinghe and Yunker added their names to the list of Roughrider record-setters.


Marasinghe, an eighth-grader and Yunker, a seventh-grader, became the youngest team to win a state doubles title when they topped Williston's Rachel Hennessy (senior athlete of the year) and Katie Slemin 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 at Cameron Indoor Tennis Center.

The duo's success wasn't a surprise to Red River head coach Tim Wynne.

"They're salty rookies," he said. "They were on a national 14 and under (United States Tennis Association) team from Grand Forks that won a national championship last year. They've both been the top-ranked 12 and under singles player in the Midwest."

While this is the first year the duo has played together at the high school level, Marasinghe and Yunker had a great deal of experience playing together at USTA tournaments. That experience helped them dig out of the early one-set deficit.

"We've been playing together for a few years," Yunker said. "I just wanted to get the second set and keep playing our game."

Marasinghe said cutting down on mistakes helped fuel the Red River comeback.

"Being more consistent," Marasinghe said. "Not letting it get to our heads when we made mistakes."

Wynne said their experience playing in big matches helped them stay cool.


"I think they've been in that situation before, but not in doubles," he said. "They were having fun with it. They weren't getting too upset (about errors). Not too many times will you find two kids from the junior high school that are going to be that good."

What To Read Next
Get Local