Osakis tennis becoming consistent top-10 team in state

The Osakis tennis team has developed a reputation over the past few years as one of the top area programs in Class A.

The Silverstreaks’ record all but speaks for itself. They have gone 100-9 over the past five seasons with four of those losses coming in section title or state tournament matches. Osakis has been able to replace five seniors off of last year’s state tournament team and is off to a 16-0 start and ranked seventh in the latest Class A state polls. They will enter the Section 6A tournament as the favorites and have high hopes of making their second straight trip to state.

Melrose is one of the teams trying to stand in their way. I was in Osakis last Thursday as the Silverstreaks upended the Dutchmen 6-1 to halt an 18-match winning streak for Melrose. Afterwards, I caught up with junior first singles player Taylor Kraemer and senior second singles player Lauren Silbernick, along with head coach Ryan Maddock for a story in today’s Osakis Review. Here is more from our conversation that I wasn’t able to get into the print edition.

Taylor Kraemer

EM: Melrose came in as a team on a roll here. How much do you expect the Dutchmen to be the team that pushes you the most come section tournament time?

Junior Taylor Kraemer followed through on her backhand shot at first singles against Melrose last Thursday. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

TK: We’re both very competitive, as you can see. I think in the end, it’s going to be very close. Hopefully we come out on the right side. They’re definitely a team right there with us in the section.

EM: How much did that state tournament appearance help this team coming into the season? Just knowing what it’s like to play on that stage.

TK: I think it was an awesome experience. We definitely grew as a team, just having that behind our backs, and going in there and being able to say we’ve been to state. It’s definitely a goal of ours again this year to get that.

EM: What has been some of the keys to sustaining your success as a program over the years?

TK: It definitely helps to have good leaders. I have had a lot of really good leaders when I was going through the tennis season [as a younger player.]

Lauren Silbernick

Senior Lauren Silbernick watched the ball on a return against Melrose last Thursday. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

EM: In years past when Staples-Motley was in the Section 6A field, they were kind of the team that everyone was shooting for in this section. Do you feel like you girls have established yourselves as that team in this section after the Cardinals move to Section 8A?

LS: I think we definitely have the biggest target on our back. But we’re able to go out there and prove ourselves. It’s not like we luckily get wins here or there.

Head coach Ryan Maddock

Head Coach Ryan Maddock talked things over with Alexa Hoffarth (middle) and Silbernick in between sets during Osakis’ season opener against Melrose on August 20. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

EM: I know you thought the Melrose match would be close at almost every spot. How impressed are you with the girls’ ability to get six of the seven wins against them?

RM:  I was very impressed with our play versus Melrose. I thought we would have a chance in all seven matches, but to end up with six was impressive. Our girls have consistently shown this year that they are mentally tough and if there is at all a way for them to win, they will figure it out.

EM: What has impressed you most about the team’s 16-0 start to the season?

RM: I have been impressed with how hard they work and how much confidence they have in themselves and their team. I’m impressed with how much they trust their coaches. There is no second guessing to what we are trying to do.

EM: What do you think has been some of the most important factors in your team’s ability to maintain a strong program year in and year out?

RM: Our girls have always been mentally tough and never get too high or too low with their emotions. That mentality has been huge for us. We don’t really see ourselves as being as good as we probably are. I think that has helped guard against being overconfident. The girls value the team victory more than individual glory, which can be tough to do in a sport like tennis.

EM: Winning can get a lot of younger players excited as well. How much do you think the constant success of the team has helped get younger girls involved in tennis in Osakis?

RM: The success of the team only helps with the interest that younger kids may have in the sport. The girls in Osakis love to play sports. It’s not just tennis, but all of our girl sports have very good programs.

Osakis tennis team earns top seed in 6A

The fall tournament season is almost upon us as the Minnesota high school tennis seedings were announced today.

There were no surprises at the top of Section 6A as the 18-0 Osakis Silverstreaks were officially named the No. 1 seed this morning. Osakis wrapped up its perfect regular season with a 6-1 win over Parkers Prairie last night.

The Silverstreaks will take on the winner of Morris Area and West Central Area this Wednesday at 8 a.m. at the Gold’s Gym in St. Cloud. The tournament will wrap up the following day with the semifinals starting at 8 a.m. and the finals taking place at around noon.

“The key is for the girls to go out and play up to their capabilities,” Osakis head coach Ryan Maddock said. “And to play with confidence. If we can do that, we feel like we have a great shot to win the tournament.”

The Silverstreaks have come so close in the past but fallen short. They were the top seed entering the tournament last year, but were upended by perennial contender Staples-Motley in the finals.

Osakis will no longer have to deal with the Cardinals after they made the move to Section 8A this season. That opened the door a little more the rest of the section, but that doesn’t mean the Silverstreaks are taking the rest of the field lightly.

“We don’t necessarily feel like it is meant to be our year,” Maddock said. “We have to make it our year through our play. We know that there are other teams with a lot of talent and heart as well. We know we will have to play well, be aggressive at appropriate times and go out and earn the title. No one is handing us anything.”

Second-seeded Melrose could be the team that poses the greatest challenge for Osakis. The Dutchmen have lost twice to the Silverstreaks this year but played them tough in a 4-3 match earlier this week. Sauk Centre was named the third seed, while Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Upsala-Swanville Area rounds out the top four seeds in the section.

“A state tournament trip always means a lot,” Maddock said. “So that’s what we will be playing hard for. Most of the girls on our team have  had that experience through track and softball, so they know what it takes to win. We feel like we have a great opportunity this year, but we know we will have to earn it.”