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Chris Murphy, Published October 09 2013

Spud's success spurred by family

Moorhead - In seventh grade, Moorhead sophomore Anna Steinwand’s mother had a birthday wish.

“I asked my mom what she wanted for her birthday, and she said for me to start playing tennis again,” Steinswand said.

Carolyn Kramer, Anna’s mother, may have proven mother knows best. Three years after Kramer’s birthday wish, Steinwand is the first individual girls tennis player from Moorhead to qualify for the section tournament since 1997.

Steinwand had her reasons for quitting the sport.

“I played a little when I was five, but stopped,” Steinwand said. “I thought it was stupid and an easy sport.”

It was her mother’s wish that got her back into the sport, but a little sibling rivalry with her older brother Gabe – a senior at Moorhead – has kept her in it.

“I just kept playing because I wanted to be better than my brother,” Steinwand.

Whatever the reason for playing, Steinwand was fully aware of the Moorhead drought before qualifying for sections when she was participating in the subsection tournament Saturday.

“My dad told me like a week before the tournament,” Steinwand said. “I felt like everybody expected me to win, so I felt like if I didn’t I’d be letting down a whole bunch of people.”

Steinwand didn’t disappoint. She topped Alexandria’s Ellie Bergstrand, who she lost to the day before at the team tournament, in three sets

6-3, 6-7, 7-5 to clinch a spot in the Class 2A, Section 8 individual tournament Saturday at Evolution Fitness in Sartell.

If becoming the first Moorhead girls tennis player to reach the tournament since Denmark exchange student Christina Kaergaard did it in 1997 wasn’t enough, Steinwand won the third-place match in three sets over Thief River Falls’ Karlee Jorgenson 6-4, 2-6,

7-5.

“It didn’t really sink in, but I was really happy because I had just lost to (Bergstrand) the day before,” Steinwand.

Outside of her mother’s wish or topping her older brother, is the idea of perfecting her mistakes, as Steinwand did against Bergstrand. It’s the real reason she stuck with tennis the second time around.

“Physically, she’s gifted and she has tremendous hands,” Moorhead girls tennis coach Scott Matheson said. “Those two things together are rare for a high school player. The other thing that sets her apart is she works so hard in the offseason and she sets goals for herself.”

Steinwand, still just a sophomore and only three years removed from picking up her tennis racket again, has also added the mental aspect to her game in order to win three-set matches as she did in the subsection tournament.

“I think this year more than any she’s really learned how to stay match tough and mentally tough,” Matheson said. “She’s always had the physical gifts, but there comes a point at higher level of competition where you got to learn how to construct your points and be patient and know when to go for it. When you do get down, you need to know how to stay mentally tough and fight back. She put it all together in the subsection tournament and it was a lot of fun to see.”

The last Spud to make it to the individual section tournament qualified for the state tournament in Kaergaard. If Steinwand matches Kaergaard again, Gabe may never hear the end of it.

“It would mean a lot because then I’d be better than my brother,” Steinwand said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548