Ireland Altenburg mentally took notes watching captain Lexi Bauman in the 2018 and 2019 Chaska girls tennis season.
She watched her power atop the singles line-up. But she also watched her grace, her sportsmanship, her passion.
Suddenly this season with Bauman and Noelle Slezak graduated, Altenburg was the No. 1 player in Chaska’s line-up. A definite adjustment getting the opponent’s best.
“Lexi was a role model for me, for sure. How she hit that ball so hard with really good players across the net. I hit over the summer with her and just watching her, how she handles herself, I really have learned a lot from her,” Altenburg said.
Beaten 6-3, 6-2 in the first match with St. Louis Park’s Raquel Schlicting on Sept. 11, Altenburg adjusted, she targeted on areas she believed she could find success. The second result Oct. 1 was a 6-4, 6-4 win in the rematch.
On Oct. 5, the Hawks junior made it two wins in a row, the first player off the court in a 6-1 playoff win over Waconia in the Section 2AA North bracket. Altenburg’s score was 6-1, 6-0.
“Honestly, it’s about staying positive. So much of tennis is in your mind. You can look back at matches and really focus on what worked, what didn’t, and really try to attack that,” Altenburg said.
Tennis is in the blood for Altenburg. She joined the team as a seventh grader, making JV. Her brother, Ian, played No. 1 singles for Chaska after transferring from Maple Grove.
Her other brother, Karl, is a receiver for the University of Arizona Division I football team.
“I’m always trying to do what I can to one-up my brother,” said Ireland of Ian, who attends Liberty University in Virginia. “(Karl) is even more competitive.”
A young squad with just three seniors in the program, Chaska lost a ton of experience at second singles with Ellen Adams dislocating a knee after just three matches.
Adams the practice partner with Altenburg for much of the last three seasons.
“It’s been different without Ellen, but I feel like I’ve grown closer with all the other girls because we’ve been mixing it up, having different girls hit with me at practice. It’s been really fun to work with different girls and see how they play,” Altenburg said.
Chaska, with five underclassmen in the line-up Oct. 5, won 12 of 15 sets versus Waconia. Regan Engeman rallied in the third set to win at second singles 6-0, 4-6, 10-6.
Maddie Margraf (6-1, 6-2) and Bethany Gaston (6-0, 6-4) were also victors at third and fourth singles for Chaska.
Kendall Thom-Natalie Roth (6-2, 6-1) and Kaitlyn Wisdorf-Taylor Dorn (6-0, 6-0) won matches at second and third doubles.
Waconia earned a 7-6, 6-3 win at first doubles from Ashley Bryfczynski and Avery Heyer over Chaska’s Nina Langley and Reese Williams.
Chaska lost 7-0 at top-ranked Minnetonka in the second round Oct. 6.
Altenburg paired up with Williams, taking two games in the first set against the Skippers’ top pairing of Karina Elvestrom and Kelsey Phillips.
Chaska’s Thom and Wisdorf also won a game in the second set in a match with Minnetonka’s Sarah Bernet and Meghan Jurgens.
“I think we’ll take a step next year. A lot of girls hit in the off-season. Kaitlyn and I hit over at Life Time once in a while. I know Maddie hits. We’ll stay connected, continue bonding as a team and be ready for next season,” Altenburg said.