by Jared Hines
Contributing Sports Writer
Sam Fitzpatrick walked off the court at Rogers Middle School on Sept. 8 with a huge smile on her face.
Fitzpatrick just won her match 6-0, 6-0, at No. 2 singles, dominating her opponent much like she often does and earning her ninth win of the season. When she was finished playing, she cheered on her teammates as the Royals team won their fourth match overall, and first in conference, against St. Francis.
“I’m impressed with the way Sam has excelled with her role playing No. 2 singles,” head coach Geoff Basham said after Thursday’s match. “It’s great having a first singles caliber player playing second singles and taking care of business match in and out.”
Sept. 8’s match was never in doubt for the Royals, something the team couldn’t say after a close 4-3 loss to Big Lake on Sept. 6. The team dropped Basham’s first conference match as coach but he and the rest of the team knew they could bounce back against the Saints on the Royals’ home courts.
Kaylie Conlin and Sam Fitzpatrick have been stable for Rogers at No. 1 and 2 singles, but it’s been the doubles combinations Basham put together that have helped the Royals stay competitive. Thursday’s 6-1 victory over St. Francis was the first time the Royals have swept doubles, with No. 1 doubles team Hannah Stolba and Emily Rubbelke leading the way. The Stolba/Rubbelke duo is undefeated as playing partners this year.
“I think we really balance each other out well,” Rubbelke said. “We are both very positive and supportive of each other.”
The Royals are 4-7 as a team this year in coach Basham’s first year as a head coach. Tuesday’s upcoming conference match against St. Michael-Albertville marks the halfway point of the season.
“Geoff is a great coach,” Rubbelke said. “I think the biggest difference (between him and former head coach Debbie Conley) would be his focus on our placement on the court and when and where to hit certain shots.”
Rogers goes to STMA this upcoming Tuesday before hosting Buffalo on the afternoon of Sept. 15. The team also has a weekend tournament in Coon Rapids against Roseville, Totino-Grace and Coon Rapids to close out the week.