Hornets Tennis Legacy Still Going Strong

Edina High School girls tennis team hopes to continue its unmatched winning streak.
From left, Caitlyn Merzbacher, Kelly Reger and Mackenzie Marinovich hope to help score another state title for the girls tennis team.

Tennis is a game of perpetual motion. The Edina High School varsity girls tennis team winning streak— 17 consecutive Class AA Minnesota State Championship titles so far—packs a powerful swing all its own. The record of state tournament wins for the team stretches back almost a generation to the 1990s, gaining the Hornets recognition throughout Minnesota and in tennis circles everywhere. But the real story comes from the people behind the scenes who make everything happen. They have created a tradition of tennis excellence that students strive to uphold as an ongoing legacy.

Coaches, students and parents form a supportive network for the Edina High School girls tennis team. Victory results from hard work and commitment, along with a good dose of fun and healthy team spirit. The program has taken on a life of its own, according to head varsity coach Steve Paulsen.

This highly respected head coach sets the tone and leads the way. “I think that the success of our program starts from the top with our coach,” says Jon Buckley, girls junior varsity B team tennis coach. The girls value Paulsen’s coaching style. “He never talks about winning or losing, just playing our best,” says Mackenzie Marinovich, a senior team captain for 2014.

The players are encouraged to become what they want to be. The priority is always to work on goals. “The pressure is there, but we still try to uphold a certain level of play relative to each player. That is how I judge them, not [by] winning or losing,” says Paulsen. “We try to make it fun.”

Lessons learned while playing the game are what counts. Through positive coaching, players learn to set goals, accept compromise, bounce back from setbacks and stay committed along the way. Even the virtue of humility comes into play. “We all have a demeanor on the court. We are very humble and don’t show off,” says Mackenzie.

Practice becomes an after-school routine during the fall tennis season. But in addition to playing in 26 school-sponsored tennis matches, many players cross-train during the off season in other sports like golf, lacrosse, running, aerobics or hockey. A few of the girls even have their own personal trainers. In summer, many players also participate in United States Tennis Association tournaments.

Team success results from a commitment to stay in the game and keep a racket close at hand. “Tennis is such an individual sport. It is fun to watch them together as a team,” says Pat Boyer, tennis parent and booster club member. Boyer’s daughter Maddie served as the Hornets’ 2013 senior captain and won a state tournament victory.

But the team’s triumphs are not limited to the tennis court. During the 2013 season, Paulsen was especially proud of the academic achievements of the girls tennis team. “My top 10 players had the highest GPA average of any team I’ve ever coached,” says Paulsen. Doing well in the classroom “is the most important thing.”

Team members are a close-knit bunch and do things together on and off the court. The older students and team captains try to include everyone, with activities like team breakfasts, cook-outs, sleepovers, fundraisers and a roster of closely guarded tennis team traditions. “When you get on the team, you do all the traditions. It really makes you feel welcome,” says Mackenzie.

Some Edina girls tennis team players sometimes go on to pursue tennis on the college level. No matter what the future holds after high school, the players know they were once part of a top team.

The Hornets tennis program offers girls a chance to grow and mature on a personal basis in a competitive yet highly supportive atmosphere. The friendships they form and memories they create are takeaways with lifelong value that last long after the game is over. Everyone wins.


For information about Edina High School girls tennis, including this season’s match schedule, visit edinaschools.org and search girls tennis.