This is what the Minnetonka girls' tennis team has been waiting for.
In 2019, the youthful Skippers finished as runners-up to Edina in the Class 2A tournament. They knew they we loaded with talent and with Hornets coach Steve Paulsen stepping down after Edina won the title, the 2020 season was supposed to be Minnetonka's breakout season.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic scrambled those plans. Minnetonka rolled through the 2020 season with nary a speed bump to slow them down, but without an official state tournament, the Skippers were forced to settle for a section title, an undefeated record and a consensus opinion that they were the state's best.
But the one thing that was missing was an official state title.
In August, players admitted their biggest motivator this season was the chance to take the step they were denied in 2020.
"We've been looking forward to the state tournament so much," senior Annika Elvestrom said before the season. "We want to get to there because last year we didn't get the chance to put our stamp on the season."
With the section playoffs set to begin this week, the Class 2A, No. 1 Skippers' goal is in sight.
Under new coach Brent Lundell, who replaced longtime head coach Dave Stearns, who died unexpectedly only a few months after the girls' season, Minnetonka has looked perhaps even more dominant than they were in 2020. They are a perfect 17-0. Top singles player Sarah Shahbaz is the No. 2-ranked player in Class 2A and Elvestrom is ranked No. 3. The duo combined to win the last Class 2A doubles title in 2019. Sophomore Kelsey Phillips is ranked No. 6.
Despite all of the bona fides that accompany the Skippers, they still have to get to the state tournament before they can plug the hole that ended the 2020 season. They begin their pursuit Tuesday in the first round of the Section 2 tournament.
"All of us, everyone on this team, wants it," Elvestrom said. "This is our time."
Should Minnetonka falter, No. 2 Rochester Mayo and No. 3 Mounds View are two teams likely to benefit. And don't overlook No. 4 Edina, supported by a talented roster and decades of past state championships.
In Class 1A, if state coaches association rankings are to be believed, No. 1-ranked Breck is the favorite. The Mustangs don't have a player ranked among the top 10 in 1A, but they are deep up and down the lineup.