USC’s dominating duo

Published 8:26 am Monday, October 13, 2008

When the section 2AA individual section girls’ tennis tournament begins Monday at Gustavus Adolphus College there is little doubt that the United South Central No. 1 doubles team of seniors Molly Yokiel and Kellie Robbins will be ready for the challenge.

Of course, there hasn’t been much of a challenge for the two this season at No. 1 doubles. Yokiel and Robbins enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed and haven’t dropped a match this season and are 19-0. In fact the duo hasn’t even seen a third set this season – nor have they seen a tiebreaker.

Things might be different at the section tournament as teams typically switch their doubles lineup to insert their No. 1 and No. 2 singles players to make a stronger team, but chances are that won’t faze Yokiel and Robbins — very little else has this season. Yokiel and Robbins have waited for this opportunity since the beginning of the season.

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“All we could talk about this season was making it to state,” Yokiel said.

The pair has waited longer than that just to play together. Yokiel and Robbins started playing at an early age and have always looked forward to the chance to play on the same doubles team. It appears the waiting has paid off so far this season. Both credit their success to having a similar approach to the game.

“I think that we both have really hard shots across court and good angles,” Yokiel said.

“We both love the net,” Robbins said. “We both want to attack.”

The pair exhibit poise on the court as if they have played together for a number of years and it’s that composure that has enabled Robbins and Yokiel to have the kind of success they have had this year.

“They don’t get nervous if they drop one game,” Rebels head coach Kim Johnson said. “They’re able to get back if they drop a couple of games. They’re really relaxed.”

Early in the season Yokiel and Robbins faced the No. 1 doubles team from Minnetonka, a traditionally strong tennis team, and came up with a win. That win went a long way for Yokiel and Robbins as it was near the beginning of the two playing together.

“That was, I think, their big confidence boost,” Johnson said.

For Robbins having an undefeated season is nothing new. Robbins went undefeated at No. 2 doubles until the section final match last season and her record stands at 46-1 over the past two years. But going from No. 2 doubles to No. 1 doubles is a big jump and going undefeated at that spot is all the more impressive.

“There is a step up,” Johnson said. “I think there is a difference from last year to this year that it is impressive as a No. 1 doubles to go undefeated.”

Yokiel and Robbins have had to adjust to the role of being the team that opponents fear heading into a match. The intimidation the pair conjures in opponents has been something that Yokiel and Robbins have looked at as something positive. Instead of feeling the pressure of an undefeated streak, they have used it to an advantage to keep the streak alive.

“I think it wants us to win even more,” Robbins said. “It makes us try harder.”

“It’s nice to say you’re undefeated,” Yokiel added. “It’s kind of fun being the ones everyone is intimidated of.”

The best a doubles team from USC has done at the state level is a third place finish and Johnson says Yokiel and Robbins rank among the best she has seen come through the program. Johnson should know, she played for the Rebels when she was in high school and her sister was part of the last doubles teams that finished third at state in 1993 and 1994.

“They’re at the top for sure,” Johnson said. “Their ground strokes, the way they can hit the angles. They’re both really strong.”