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Crookston girls' tennis season in review

Jacob Shames
Crookston Times
Halle Winjum didn't lose a match for Crookston this season.

This article is the first in a series recapping the seasons of Crookston High School's fall sports teams. First up: girls' tennis.

2020 was every bit the breakthrough season the Crookston girls' tennis team was after and more.

Buoyed by one of its deepest, most talented rosters in a long while, the Pirates flew out of the gates. They won their first five matches, none closer than 5-2, as they quickly asserted themselves as the primary challenger in Section 8A to perennial power Thief River Falls.

Crookston's momentum was blunted by a home loss to the Prowlers on Sept. 15. But the Pirates rebounded quickly, winning three straight to set up a showdown in Thief River Falls on Sept. 29 that would prove decisive in the battle for the section's No. 1 seed.

After nearly four hours, the match ended with a statement. The Pirates outlasted the defending section champions, 4-3, sending a clear message that they were here to stay.

Crookston earned the top seed and home-court advantage in the section playoffs, but the Pirates never got the chance to prove their victory over the Prowlers wasn't a fluke. Perham/New York Mills came from behind to spring the upset, 4-3, in the section semifinals on Oct. 8, and despite an 11-2 record, Crookston's 2020 season progressed no farther than its 2019 did.

None of that wiped away the Pirates' dominance in coach Cody Brekken's second season. Junior Hayden Winjum ascended to the No. 1 singles spot thanks to a 9-1 record, while her sister Halle, a freshman, won every one of her matches. Emma Gunderson (Fr.) was a force at doubles, and Brekken Tull (Fr.) and Emma Osborn (Jr.) made huge strides as well.

Catherine Tiedemann helped lead the team as the only senior on the lineup for most of the season. Meanwhile, sophomores Abby Borowicz, Halle Bruggeman, Macy Fee and junior Hannah Lindemoen became dependable contributors in the middle of the lineup, while younger players like Addie Fee and Isabelle Smith also pitched in at times.

While it wasn't enough to fully climb the mountain this year, Crookston laid a strong foundation. The Times looks back on the season that was, and looks ahead at what is to come.

While No. 1 singles player Catherine Tiedemann was a senior this season, the rest of the Pirates' varsity lineup will be back in its entirety in 2021.

Key facts

  • Record: 11-2
  • Regular season: earned first seed in Section 8A Tournament
  • Playoffs: lost to Perham in Section 8A Semifinals
  • Top performers: Halle Winjum (9-0 singles, 2-0 doubles), Hayden Winjum (9-1 singles, 1-0 doubles), Emma Osborn (6-0 singles, 5-2 doubles), Emma Gunderson (10-3 doubles), Brekken Tull (6-2 singles, 4-1 doubles)
  • Key seniors: Catherine Tiedemann, Emma Borowicz

Memorable moment

The afternoon of Sept. 29 in Thief River Falls was as dramatic as regular-season hig tennis matches come.

It didn't seem that way at first. The first three matches to be decided all went to the Prowlers. But Halle Winjum and Tull both won their matches before Gunderson and Osborn wrapped up a three-set win at No. 2 doubles.

Then it was down to Hayden Winjum, facing Emma Fagerstrom at No. 1 singles. The climactic match was a clash of styles — Fagerstrom's blazing backhand against Winjum's endless ability to return the ball.

By the third set, Winjum was fatigued, her legs on fire, but in her words, "just kept hitting the ball back." The result: a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win under the lights to seal the come-from-behind marathon.

Brekken Tull excelled as a freshman this season, and should remain one of Crookston's key players next season as the Pirates return a talented team.

What's next?

The Pirates are losing three of their most important pieces: Tiedemann, Emma Borowicz — who spent most of the year recovering from a torn ACL and played only one match — and their coach himself. Brekken, who's in the National Guard, will be deployed next year.

But Crookston will return nine of 10 from its regular lineup, which included three freshmen, three sophomores and three juniors. With one more year of experience under their belt, plus the pain of their playoff exit to fuel them, expectations should be high for the Pirates in 2021.

Tiedemann, speaking after the loss to the Yellowjackets, might have said it best: "They're gonna be a hell of a team."

The Times welcomes your feedback. You can send any comments or questions to our office at (218) 281-2730 or sports editor Jacob Shames at jshames@crookstontimes.com.

Follow along on Twitter @crookstonsports and @Jacob_Shames for all the latest stories and live game updates.