Two years ago, they made it to their first state tournament. Last year, they went undefeated only for COVID-19 to deny them a chance to return to state.

Now, the Patriots bring back plenty of experience and hope to repeat some of the success of the past few seasons.

“We feel like we made it to state last year - that we made it the last two years - and the goal, obviously, would be a three-peat,” head coach Monica Sergent said. “But we are very focused on just going one match at a time and seeing where that takes us.”

With the new season comes a move to Section 7-2A, which means new opponents and perhaps a greater challenge.

“Obviously we've worked hard in the offseason, and we’re ready to embrace the challenge,” Sergent said.

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In her 18 years with the program, Sergent has amassed 313 career wins against just 80 losses.

This year, she will rely on the experience of senior captains Megan Muller, Carly Chaney and Riley Fogarty, along with fellow letterwinners Ellie Ouradnik, Aubrey Wiczek, Jordan Gartner, Gabby Ziesemer and Eva Mumm.

“They are looking pretty consistent and pretty strong in all of their skills areas,” Sergent said. “If they can just stick to their game strategies in each match, I think we should be successful.”

Muller has been an anchor for the Patriots, competing in No. 1 singles matches - at a high level - since her freshman season. In 2019, she finished fourth at state as an individual.

“I’m sure she is hoping to make it back as an individual, and we hope to send some of her teammates with her,” Sergent said.

COVID-19 did not delay the start of the 2020 tennis season, as it did football and volleyball, but it did shorten the season and limit competition, not allowing for quads or tournaments and doing away with the state tournament altogether. This season, assuming all goes to plan, the Patriots can expect their usual full season.

“We are really hoping to play a full season schedule this year,” Sergent said. “With the leadership of our returning letterwinners and the addition of talented new players as well as a strong JV squad, we look forward to a successful season. The girls have worked hard in the offseason to prepare to embrace the challenge of being moved up to Section 7-2A. Our goal is to compete well.”

The team is off to a nice start, winning its first eight matches, but Sergent hopes her team - which she called “a really positive, hard-working group of girls” - takes the season in stride.

“Our goal is always to improve every day, whether it’s in practice or matches, and do the little things right,” Sergent said. “We hope to be in the mix toward the end of the playoffs, but we aren't familiar with all the other teams so we're just going to do our best.”

Assistant coaches are Chad Rudbeck, Katrina Moody and Dan Van Blaricom. Sean Bengtson and Sage Stangel are middle-level coaches.

Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.