Molly Belda & Clare Palen

October 11, 2017 06:34 PM

(ABC 6 News) – For a 22nd consecutive season, the Lourdes Eagles are heading to the girls state tennis tournament—the Eagles possess lots of talent, but they’ve also had many laughs along the way.

The Eagles, who will participate in the Class A state tournament Oct. 24 and potentially Oct. 25, have a few players they can lean on.


Sophomore Clare Palen, the 4th-ranked tennis player in Minnesota, is someone who the Eagles said is “getting better every year.”

“She’s always someone we can count on,” Eagles senior Molly Belda said. “She’s always got a level-head out on the court, which is really important. She’s always motivated. She works hard in the offseason, and I know she’s a role model to everyone on the team, including myself.”

“She’s really dedicated herself to this sport. She’s stopped playing other sports to make sure she’s doing the best that she can in this sport, and that shows a lot.”

Palen has been starring for the Eagles since middle school, and that’s because she “plays to win.”

“Just for me, confidence is really important, and I know that when I start playing bad, I know I can always do better,” Palen said. “I just need to have more confidence in myself and in my game and I can always push myself to get better and that’s what I want to do.”

“I definitely feel more comfortable. I’ve been there a few more years, it’s a lot more fun just being older and I love interacting with the younger players and making them smile. It’s a lot of fun.”

Tennis has a reputation for being a rather serious sport at times—which is where Palen’s teammate, Belda, who has competed in singles and doubles throughout the season, comes into play.

“(Molly is) awesome, she’s so funny,” Palen said. “She’s fun to be around and an awesome player. She works really hard and she’s really committed to this sport. In tight matches, it’s always good to take a breath and just laugh a little bit and have fun.”

Belda may be regarded as a jokester, but she also displays a certain level of focus and patience when it matters most.

“You have to go shot-by-shot, you shouldn’t think about the whole match, like ‘oh my gosh, I’m going to lose this match if I lose this one point,’” Belda said. “You just keep it going, one shot over the net at a time. Otherwise you over-think it and it gets in your head, and the outcome usually isn’t good if you have bad thoughts.”

“She’s got some humor there and good work ethic,” Eagles head girls tennis coach David Pettengill said. “She’s really done well this year. You’ve got to have fun and you’ve got to loosen up a little bit, but at the same time, you have to stay focused.”

Pettengill, who’s in his fourth season as Eagles head coach, said Palen and Belda are coachable because they listen, and they work hard.

“That’s all you can ask for from a coach, are they trying their hardest and utilizing the information that they have,” Pettengill said. “You can’t ask for anything more than that.”


Sean Tehan

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