Dave Stearns was an icon in Minnesota high school tennis; a coach for 59 seasons between boys and girls teams at Minnetonka High School.
He coached many champions, including back-to-back Skipper team titles with the boys program in 2016 and 2017. The 2020 season, in which Minnetonka dominated the competition unlike any other, was going to be his first girls team title.
Due to COVID, fall state tournaments were not held in 2020.
Stearns, 72, died unexpectedly on Dec. 12, 2020.
That is why Minnetonka started every match with "Do it for Dave" this season. That was the message Oct. 27 in the Class AA final with Blake School, the 2019 Class A champions.
And that is why when the Skippers celebrated with the championship plaque, a 6-1 win, they knew he was smiling down on them.
Minnetonka, which lost just seven individual matches all season, undefeated through both 2020 and 2021, claimed its first team title since 1975.
Like they did all season, the Skippers not only won, they dominated.
Sarah Shahbaz won all 12 games at No. 1 singles over individual state qualifier Bella Suk. Doubles teams of Kelsey Phillips and Karina Elvestrom, Emilija Medzuikaite and Maddie Prondzinski, and Alexa Cummings and Arianna Piedrahita, surrendered just two total games to clinch the match in less than an hour.
Annika Elvestrom, doubles state champion with Shahbaz in 2019, also won 6-1, 6-0, at second singles. Kate Feist claimed the sixth team point, a 6-4, 6-1 win in the fourth position.
Blake's lone win came at third singles, a 6-1, 6-0 decision in favor of Nana Vang.
Minnetonka was runner-up to Edina in the state championship in 2018 and 2019.
The Skippers won matches over Simley and Mounds View by 7-0 scores in the opening two rounds.
The state tournament continues Oct. 28 and 29 at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota.
Shahbaz and Phillips are the No. 2 and 5 seeds in the individual singles portion, while the Elvestroms are seeded No. 1 and Medzuikaite and Prondzinski are No. 5 in doubles.
The first two rounds are Thursday with the semifinals, third-place matches and championships on Friday.