The Citizen's girls tennis players of the year from 2008 to present.
Girls Tennis All-Stars: Auburn's Julia Wagner reflects on four trips to state tournament
AUBURN — Julia Wagner knew her fourth trip to the state tennis meet would be the toughest.
The Auburn senior was nursing a foot injury she sustained in the state qualifier tournament, but attempted to gut it out. The pain grew too much after the first match, and Wagner withdrew.
Despite a rough ending to her high school career, Wagner has been able to reflect on all she has accomplished. The Citizen’s girls tennis player of the year won the section and state qualifier championships in both singles and doubles over the past two seasons.
"Obviously, the outcome wasn't expected ... but I was able to accomplish everything I wanted to," Wagner said. "Being able to go to the tournament gave me a lot more respect for all of the hard work you have to put in to even go to the tournament. Even though it wasn't what I hoped would happen, it made me think about it a lot."
Wagner injured her foot in a three-hour marathon match against New Hartford’s Sarah Corasanti in the Section III state qualifier finals. She injured her foot in the second set, but emerged with a 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-4 victory.
Wagner had about a week to prepare for the state tournament, and had a constant routine of resting, stretching, icing and heating her foot in preparation for the first round.
"Going into the match, I knew it was going to be tough," Wagner said. "I tried pushing through it, but it got to the point where I couldn't physically do an overhand serve because of the pressure on my front foot."
Wagner fell to Suffolk’s Denise Lai (6-2, 6-1) in the first round of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association meet, and ultimately decided to pull out instead of going into the back draw. The decision to end her high school career on that note was tough.
"I tried telling myself 'Push through it, you got it, it will go away if you win this match,'" Wagner said. "I tried just hoping for the best, but there comes a point in time where you have to decide whether you want to hurt yourself further and cause permanent damage or take a step back, realize what you accomplished and just be happy that you got there."
Wagner finishes with a Section III, Class A and Section III State Qualifier championship in both singles and doubles. She was the runner-up in both tournaments as a singles player twice, and made four trips to the state meet.
"I've sat and just thought 'I can't believe I've done all of that,'" Wagner said. "At the same time, I remember all the years of hard work that I've put in."
Wagner is exploring her college options, but knows one thing is for sure.
"I'll definitely be playing tennis, no matter what I do," Wagner said. "Whether it's club or varsity, I'm definitely playing tennis."
Girls Tennis All-Stars: Auburn's Husby, Wagner join forces to advance to state quarterfinals
AUBURN | After spending the bulk of their careers as singles players, Lauryn Husby and Julia Wagner joined forces this season.
The Auburn doubles team’s versatile approach was hard to beat. Husby and Wagner were undefeated in the regular season, won the Section III championship and went on to compete in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association quarterfinals earlier this month.
For Husby and Wagner, the decision to play together paid off.
“Just making it to day two in the main draw, not a lot of people can say they’ve done that,” Wagner said. “Just being in the quarterfinals, playing the best in the state and being put in that group of people it’s almost breathtaking. It’s surreal.
“It’s hard to believe you’re in the top eight.”
The relationship took some work at the beginning. Not used to sharing the court, Husby and Wagner learned how to better communicate and mesh their styles with each other throughout the season.
“Before we started to play together, there was a bigger difference,” Husby said. “As we worked together, we became more similar.”
“We used our different techniques and learned how to blend them to create something better out of it,” Wagner said.
Husby and Wagner topped the team from West Genesee for the Section III, Class A championship, and won the rematch in the finals of the Section III state qualifier tournament to earn a No. 8 seed in the NYSPHSAA tournament.
“That’s remarkable,” Wagner said. “It’s something not a lot of people have done before. This season showed how sports should be in general. You work with someone you haven’t worked with before and create a bond, connect with each other and improve throughout the season.”
Husby and Wagner picked up wins in the first and second round of the NHYSPHSAA tournament, but faced the top seed, Oyster Bay’s Courtney Kowalsky and Celeste Matute, in the quarterfinals. The Auburn duo lost 6-3, 6-0 to the eventual champions.
“They were a really great team and they worked so well together because they’ve known each other a long time,” Husby said. “If Julia and I had done that, we’d be right there with them. It definitely takes time. We’ve learned and improved so much throughout this season.”
After completing her senior tennis season, Husby is down to a few colleges to choose from. Her experience helped her decide she wanted to continue playing tennis at the next level.
“I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to play in college, but after this I’ve realized that is tennis is something that I love,” Husby said. “I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Wagner will take her time to choose whether she will move back to singles next season with the Maroons.
“I’ll go wherever I feel most comfortable,” Wagner said. “Right now, I’m enjoying the moment and all that we’ve accomplished. Everything next year is just icing on the cake. When it comes closer to next season, I’ll decide then.”
Both Husby and Wagner agree that the season they spent together helped them gain a new perspective.
“It definitely paid off,” Husby said. “I couldn’t ask for a better season or a better way to end my six years on the team.”
Girls Tennis All-Stars: Auburn's Julia Wagner accomplishes goals in sophomore season
AUBURN | Julia Wagner is still in shock over what she was able to accomplish.
Wagner, The Citizen’s girls tennis player of the year, was the runner-up in both the Section III, Division I and state qualifier tournaments and made her second appearance in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships, where she fell in the second round to the eventual champion.
The Auburn sophomore achieved her main goal to get farther than last year, a first round exit at states.
“Coming in second for the second year in a row for sectionals and state qualifiers, that’s still a remarkable thing to accomplish,” Wagner said. “I thought I had an amazing season getting to states and beating the goal that I had.”
Besides the loss that eliminated her from the state tournament, Wagner’s only other singles losses came to Baldwinsville’s Kahlei Reisinger. During the regular season, Wagner was the only one to take a set from Reisinger in the last three years.
“I was jumping out of my skin from excitement,” Wagner said.
After meeting Reisinger in the section finals for a second-straight year, Wagner lost to the Bees’ top singles player again at state qualifiers. Her second place finish earned her another berth into the state tournament.
“It’s just such an honor to go,” Wagner said. “I’m still trying to process everything that’s happened. Getting past the first round was my goal last year. It’s an amazing feeling -- one of the best moments of the season.”
Wagner won her first match against St. Francis Prep’s Amalia Parrish, but the draw wasn’t as kind in the next round. Half Hollow Hills East’s Ester Chikvashvili, seeded No. 5, topped Wagner to advance to the quarterfinals and eventually won the state title.
“She was so good,” Wagner said. “I’m not surprised she won states. Anything I tried to do to try to hurt her, she came back twice as hard at me. She was an amazing player.”
Although she has improved many aspects of her game, Wagner’s biggest improvement has come between her ears.
“The mental aspect of tennis is so demanding,” Wagner said. “You could be the best player in the entire state or country and, if you don’t have a strong mental game, you’re most likely going to lose. Just building up the mentality of never giving up, and always fighting and coming back even if you’re down love-5 in the second set.”
Although her fourth varsity season is over, there is still plenty of work to be done. Wagner trains regularly during the week with Scott Minnoe, whose daughter Claire won five section titles, three state qualifier tournaments and placed as high as third at the state tournament. Many weekends are spent at various tournaments in and around New York state.
“He has done so much,” Wagner said of Minnoe. “I’m forever grateful for Scott. He’s that kind of person that pushes you even further. Even though you think you’re good, he pushes you to be even better. That’s the kind of coach I love.”
For Wagner, she is proving some of her former coaches wrong.
“Being told from previous coaches that I was was never good enough to hit with the elite girls, or even be on the same court with them, and now not only have I beat them, but I’ve thrived even further,” Wagner said. “It’s just an amazing feeling. This was one of the best seasons I’ve ever had.”
The next step is obvious. With two seasons left in her high school career, Wagner has her eyes set on a section and state qualifier title.
“Being the runner-up two years in a row is going to give me more motivation in the offseason to train harder,” Wagner said.
Not settling: Freshman Wagner finishes season with trip to state tournament
AUBURN | Despite only a handful of losses this season, Julia Wagner is using those as motivation.
Auburn’s top girls tennis player, who made her first trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association tournament this season, was the runner-up in the Section III, Division I championship and at the Section III state qualifier tournament.
But Wagner, The Citizen’s girls tennis player of the year, isn’t settling for second-best.
The freshman knows what she’s up against. Baldwinsville sophomore Kahlei Reisinger topped Wagner in both sectional tournaments, and the training has begun for the seemingly inevitable rematches next season.
"I think losing to Kahlei gave me that push to work harder every day," Wagner said.
Wagner spends multiple nights a week working countless hours on her game and many weekends in United States Tennis Association tournaments around the Northeast. The extra effort has helped her grow her game by leaps and bounds, and made her jump from third to first singles during the varsity season look easy.
"There's no offseason," Wagner said. "I think it's crazier after the (varsity) tennis season."
Wagner has already made a habit of achieving her goals. Before this season, she set her sights on a berth into the state tournament.
"That was the one thing that I was training all year for, and that was the one thing I wanted to do," Wagner said.
For Auburn coach Shelly Connors, taking one of her players to the state tournament was nothing new. Claire Minnoe made the trip the last five years, and advanced to the semifinals in her junior and senior seasons.
Like Minnoe, Wagner earned the trip through her copious amounts of work outside the varsity season.
“It was a pleasant surprise and it was a great experience for her to go as a freshman,” Connors said.
Although Wagner was eliminated in the first round this season, it helped show her the level of competition at states and prepare her for years to come.
"I had the best time, and everyone from Section III was just so nice and supportive and happy I was there," Wagner said. "It was an experience of a lifetime."
With many more to come.
One rung at a time: After successful varsity career, Minnoe ready for college challenge
It all started with a goal of making the Auburn varsity tennis team as a seventh-grader.
Not the most monumental task, but it was the first rung on a tall ladder of achievements for Claire Minnoe.
Six years later, and her varsity career coming to a close, Minnoe won five Section III singles titles, the state qualifier tournament three times, made five trips to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association tournament, placing third and fourth in the state in her junior and senior seasons, respectively.
“It was just one step at a time,” said Minnoe, The Citizen’s choice for girls tennis player of the year. “My first step was to make the varsity tennis team, and I ended up being number one. The next goal was to make it to sectionals, and I won sectionals. I just kept setting goals for myself and worked hard to reach each one of them.”
The most decorated Auburn tennis player in recent memory, Minnoe kept striving to achieve instead of remaining content.
“She’s got a lot to be proud of,” Auburn coach Shelly Connors said. “It’s been an amazing career.”
However, for one goal, Minnoe came up just short.
After breezing through state qualifiers without dropping a single game, the state title popped up on Minnoe’s radar. She placed third her junior year, and with one chance left, she wanted to minimize any off-the-court distractions.
Minnoe made her final decision on which college to attend, Saint Joseph’s University, which realized her dream of playing Division I tennis.
“This year I put a little more pressure on myself,” Minnoe said. “Last year, it wasn’t expected and I just kept winning and winning. The next thing I knew, I was winning the third place medal. This year I wanted to do better, but I came just a little short.”
Even with the weight of the college decision off her shoulders, faster courts and stiff competition held Minnoe to fourth place in the state tournament.
“It was great, but it was kind of sad,” she said. “It was my last run through for everything.”
The years flew by for Connors, who remembered Minnoe seeming very mature for a seventh-grade player.
“Each year Claire came back with something new in her arsenal,” she said. “One year, she had great groundstrokes, the next year her net game was better and each year it was neat to see the progression.”
For Connors, it’s still sinking in that its over. After six years of watching the player's passion for the game and desire to keep improving, she believed Minnoe was gratified.
“I couldn’t be happier for her...she seems content,” Connors said. “She’s happy with picking a college and how her varsity career ended.”
Minnoe’s next goal is in sight as she tries to become Saint Joseph’s top singles player and hopefully make it to the NCAA tournament. The routine of practicing two-to-three hours on the court each day, besides regular workouts throughout the week, remains the same.
“She wouldn’t have gone half as far without the time she’s put into it,” Connors said. ”I don’t think the people from the outside looking in understand the time she puts in.”
Reaching each goal has only fueled Minnoe’s fire, and there are still rungs on the ladder.
“It feels great that all my hard work has paid off for each goal,” she said.
Minnoe’s game evolving, maturing
AUBURN — After winning the first set 6-0, Auburn’s Claire Minnoe looked poised to beat Olivia Messineo of Christian Brothers Academy in the state qualifying tennis tournament Oct. 29.
But then, despite playing against an opponent she has competed against since she was young, Minnoe began to get flustered, causing her to drop the second set 4-6.
“The third set I released my emotions a little bit,” she said. “I got refocused an I was just like ‘OK, this is just another tennis match, don’t let your emotions or nerves bring you down, and just play.’”
Minnoe put the stress aside, and ended up winning the final set 6-3 on her journey to her third-place finish in the state tournament, her finest achievement to date and the best finish by a girl in Section III history. That’s why she was an easy choice for The Citizen’s Tennis Player of the Year.
“It was overwhelming feeling for me,” Minnoe said.
Despite the high school junior’s years of experience and all of her achievements, Minnoe’s tennis game is still evolving and maturing from when she first won the Section III singles title as an eighth-grader.
“I understand the game of tennis more,” she said. “Before in eighth grade, if something wasn’t working I wasn’t sure how to work around it. Now if my forehand is a little off, I know how to make the proper adjustments.”
Minnoe also understands she needs to keep her emotions in check while dealing with the pressure on the court.
“Getting frustrated can bring your game down a lot, so I try to keep down my frustration a lot more,” she said.
Before big matches, Minnoe tries to think of her technique rather than the pressure. If she has played the opponent, she considers what could happen and how she plans to play them.
“I don’t try to think of it, like ‘Oh, I’m going for my fifth section title,’” Minnoe said. “I just try to take it like ‘This is just another tennis match’….I don’t think ahead, just one step at a time.
“I’m well prepared and I don’t psych myself out and think about the finals before I get to my next match. I just take it one step at a time, and I’m well-prepared … so the outcome has been good so far.”
Well-prepared for Minnoe means going from her high school tennis practice to working out with her father, Scott, on the court. Even with the state tournament over, she has been on the court every day.
All of the work is to be ready for next year’s state tournament.
“I feel like I’m in great shape, but to play at that level and two tough matches in a row you have to be in phenomenal shape,” Minnoe said. “I just feel like I have to get stronger in my upper body so I can hit balls more consistent in two tough matches back-to-back”
Minnoe also gets ready by playing in United States Tennis Association tournaments, where she is currently ranked 31st in the Eastern Rankings for both the 16 and 18 divisions.
USTA helps prepare her with quality competition, as well as seeing previews of possible opponents coming in the state tournament.
Minnoe’s goal for her senior year is far from a secret. She wants to win states.
“I just work hard every day and I set new goals for myself each year,” she said. “I made it really far this year, but next year I hope to make it even farther.”
After high school, Minnoe’s next goal is to play Division I college tennis. That should be no problem, as she has already received plenty of interest from coaches by email.
The thought of being recruited makes it hard for Minnoe to control a different emotion — excitement.
Beaming, Minnoe said “It’s pretty cool.”
Staff writer Jeremy Houghtaling can be reached at 282-2256 or
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenHough.
Minnoe setting her sights even higher
For Claire Minnoe, the third time wasn’t exactly the charm. While winning her third straight Section III tennis championship, Minnoe lost in the second round of the state championship, coming up short of her dream of winning a state title.
But strides were certainly made. Minnoe finished her 2010 tennis season winning the Section III state qualifier for the first time. In the previous two seasons, she lost in the finals. Minnoe also won her first match in states.
So even though three wasn’t the magic number, as only a sophomore, maybe four or five will be.
“Yeah definitely, it’s a good thing I have two more years to win a state championship,” Minnoe said.
The Citizen’s girls tennis player of the year rolled through the regular season, mostly unscathed. But to her, it wasn’t enough. A near flawless regular season, which most other players would take in a second, isn#’t the goal.
“This season went really well even though it didn’t end the way I wanted,” Minnoe said. “I definitely work hard and am proud of my sectional championships but I want to accomplish higher goals.”
Minnoe and head coach Shelly Connors gear every regular season match toward the post season. After three consecutive Section III titles, they too often have to remind themselves how big an accomplishment it is.
“She goes through the regular seasons so that she can get to this point and challenge herself at the level she has gotten to,” Connors said after Minnoe’s sectional title.
“In state qualifiers and states, this is where she is going to challenge herself and see what she can do against the other players. I don’t want to take anything away from this. Having won sectional titles three years and she is only a sophomore is amazing.”
Minnoe’s season began when many other tennis seasons ended. She didn’t face much of a challenge in the state qualifiers, reaching the finals for the third consecutive year and bringing home the title for the first time.
But a week later as she walked out of the Eastside Racquet Club in Manlius, she did so with a loss in the second round of states. At the time it seemed like there wasn’t much to build on. Minnoe had a lead, but a bigger, stronger player overcame the deficit and sent Minnoe home early.
After the match, she pointed the finger at herself.
“I completely blew it,” Minnoe said.
Never looking for help, never deferring the blame, the last piece of her puzzle is coming into place — the mental aspect of her game. As disappointed as she was that day, blocks had been laid for a run next year. The sour taste in her mouth can spoil until next season, which can#’t be good for the Section III players Minnoe already dominates.
“I learned a lot from the match last year,” Minnoe said. “I keep it in the back of my head.”
Auburn's young veteran
Rarely in high school sports do you find a freshman who is a veteran.
But that's the case with Auburn freshman Claire Minnoe, who just concluded her third season on the girls tennis squad. Minnoe went undefeated in the regular season and won the Section III title for a second consecutive season, making her the easy choice for The Citizen's girls tennis player of the year.
“I am very honored and proud to represent Auburn sports,” Minnoe said. “I am thrilled with my accomplishments this season. Going into the season I had a lot of goals and I was able to achieve most, which I am very proud of.”
Minnoe, though, hasn't yet set the bar too high - she has plenty of other goals and three more years to achieve them. First, she'd like to win the state qualifier - she lost to an internationally-ranked player from Fayetteville-Manlius in the finals this season.
Second, she wants to advance past first round at states, which she hasn't been able to do in two tries.
“Someday, I hope to win a New York state championship title, too,” Minnoe said. “I work hard in the offseason, practicing every day and playing tournaments on the weekend so it is nice to see my hard work paying off and I hope to continue to improve.”
As the player to beat in Section III singles, Minnoe is making quite a name for herself already, and as a freshman, she hopes there is much more to come. Her game has already shown improvement this season, making giant strides on her ground strokes and in making her serves more powerful.
“I think overall I have improved my consistency, too,” Minnoe said. “I think I feel more confident of my ablities on the court and I think it shows in my game.”
With tennis being typically an individual sport, Minnoe is glad to have the support of her coach and teammates behind her in every match.
“Coach (Shelly) Connors and the entire team have been a tremendous support system for me throughout the season,” Minnoe said. “I think that I am growing as a player every year and we are growing as a team as well. It is nice that I am at the high school this year, too. I felt more like a part of the team and enjoyed being able to connect with my teammates at school, too. I think that there is so much more improvement to be made for me. I am looking forward to next season to see what I can do, how far I can go and how far we as a team can go.”
The Citizen All-Stars: Girls Tennis
Claire Minnoe, Auburn. Minnoe finished the regular season undefeated and won back-to-back sectional championships. She lost in the first round of the state championships.
Amrita Deol, Skaneateles. Finishing her season 9-6, Deol advanced beyond individual sectionals but lost in the first round of state qualifiers.
Elizabeth Lane, Skaneateles. Lane went 11-4, coming out of the Liberty League 10-1. She advanced to individual sectionals where she won the first two rounds before advancing to the state qualifiers.
Jenna Bruno/Jamie Bruno, Auburn. The sister duo made individual sectionals as a doubles team. Jamie Bruno has been on the varsity team for three years, though both players worked hard throughout the season.
Katherine Hill/Megan Holleran, Skaneateles. Winning the league after finishing 11-0, this Lakers duo took second at sectionals and went on to win the state qualifier. They won their first round match at states before losing to Rochester in the second round.
Ryan Merle/Sidney Lawson, Skaneateles. Overall, they finished 16-2 on the season and finished 10-0 in the league. The two advanced to individual sectionals where they won the first two rounds and lost in the semifinals. Merle and Lawson went on to the state qualifiers but lost in the first round.
Casey Van Slyke/Kathryn Magee, Skaneateles. Their season record ended up at 18-2 overall and 11-0 in the league. The pair advanced to sectionals where they won the first two rounds and lost in the third.
Auburn's youth is served
Auburn eighth-grader Claire Minnoe played like a veteran this season, advancing all the way to the state tournament.
The Citizen's girls tennis player of the year also captured a Section III championship. And while she reached her goal this season of making it to states, Minnoe is no stranger to a high level of competition.
“I play USTA tournaments during the offseason,” she said “So I am used to the pressure of a big match and how to play with nerves.”
Auburn's coach Shelly Connors said Minnoe's success comes from her determination and work ethic.
“She works hard and has a good drive for the game,” Connors said. “She has fun with it, though, and she has a hunger for success in the sport.”
Minnoe is excited about her accomplishments and how well the team played this season.
“It was so much fun to be a part of a great team,” Minnoe said. “I feel like my hard work really paid off this year. Making states was the best part, it was a big accomplishment and one of my main goals this season. I am looking forward to next year and already setting goals for myself.”
Connors expects Minnoe to make advancements in her game, but also believes Auburn's No. 1 singles player will benefit just from being a student at the high school.
“She was surrounded by upperclassmen,” Connors said. “They all got along really well, but next year will be so much better for her because she will be in the high school with them. Once she comes to the high school and it is her peers she is with on the team, it will give her a chance to come out more as a leader and possibly she can come out of her shell some more.”
And now that Minnoe has had a taste of success, she's even more determined to keep it going throughout her varsity career, which looks very bright.
“I practice hard in the off season so I am hoping to become even more competitive,” Minnoe said. “On a team note, it would be great for us as a team to compete for the sectional title. I know that if I continue to work hard, hopefully good things will happen.”
“We will be working on making (Minnoe's) game a little more well rounded,” Connors said. “She is a competitor and she will be competing for a while, she has proved that.”