Can the Burnsville girls tennis team become a bigger factor this fall in the South Suburban Conference and in Section 6AA?
That's the hope for the Blaze with plenty of talent back from last year's squad that achieved double-digit wins.
"Although we are playing a tough schedule, we expect to be competitive with every opponent," Blaze coach Ryan Haddorff said. "This team is entirely made up of multi-sport athletes who have discovered the benefits of team tennis."
Burnsville finished 10-8-1 overall last year (3-6 in the SSC). It went 1-1 in the Section 6AA team tournament for the third straight year.
Juniors Mara McMahon and Brooke Haddorff, sophomore Sami Bowlby and eighth-grader Addie Bowlby are back and expected to lead the Blaze's singles lineup.
In doubles, Haddorff will try to find the right combinations. In the mix are senior Avery Sawchuk, juniors Hannah Lake, Morgan Krumwiede, Ruby Pozorski and Maria Widen, ninth-grader Molly Halvorson and eighth-grader Ashley King.
Senior Hanna Hanzija is a newcomer to the team and looks to be compete for a doubles spot.
"With tennis being the primary activity for the next nine weeks, we expect these girls to improve rapidly and challenge some very good teams this season," Haddorff said.
Burnsville opens the season Aug. 16 with two home matches, one versus Hastings at 10 a.m., and an SSC one against Farmington at 3:30 p.m. The Blaze will also play a doubleheader Aug. 19 down in Rochester taking on Rochester Lourdes at 11 a.m. and Rochester Century at 4 p.m.
Burnsville is at Lake City Aug 20 at 10 a.m. and at Eastview in SSC action Aug. 22 at 3:30 p.m.
Eastview is expected to be one of the top SSC teams. However, Prior Lake still has to be the team to beat. The Lakers have won seven of the last eighth league titles and own a 70-1 conference record since 2011.
In Section 6AA, Edina is the team to beat. The perennial power Hornets have won the last two Class AA state championships and 22 of the last 23.
Burnsville was seeded No. 4 in the section last year but lost to fifth-seeded Benilde-St. Margaret's in the quarterfinals.
In section doubles play last year, Haddorff and Sami Bowlby went 2-1, losing in the quarterfinals. The last time Burnsville had a singles player or doubles team compete at state was in 2007.
Niltooli Wilkins won the Class AA state singles title for Burnsville in 2007. She was runner-up the year before. Judy Wang also won a state singles title for the Blaze in 1997.
Burnsville has never made the state field as a team.
This year's Class AA state team tournament is scheduled for Oct. 22-23 at its annual site, the Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis. The state singles and doubles tournaments are the next two days.