VIRGINIA — Mary Skorich has always tried to be the best player she could be during her six years as a Virginia tennis team member.
The philosophy paid off for the veteran Blue Devil as she helped lead her squad to the section semifinals this fall and had her own personal successes.
“It always came down to ... even if I was tired, even if I was hurt, I kept going. For me just not giving up, I think that definitely helped me this year too,’’ especially since COVID-19 put a damper on the fall sports season.
Skorich’s work and dedication to the sport paid off late in the season with two victories over Eveleth-Gilbert’s Lydia Delich — who is another one of the top players in the area.
“Both of those matches were extremely hard, but if I hadn’t been patient with it and let each point be its own point, I wouldn’t have been able to play as well as I did.
“Patience comes with experience. Having six years of varsity experience ... It came with time. I can say as a seventh grader, I was not as patient as I am today. You just kind of have to let the game play out the way it is. If you win, you win. If you lose you lose.’’
For her strong play and successful season, Skorich has been named the All-Iron Range Girls’ Tennis Player of the Year by the Mesabi Tribune and the Grand Rapids Herald-Review.
“That’s a really exciting thing for Mary and I think it’s deserved. She’s a very good tennis player and she was definitely a leader,’’ said Virginia head coach Kortney Rosati.
What makes Skorich such a good tennis player?
“I definitely think her attitude and her mindset are big parts of it,’’ Rosati said. “She goes in with a good attitude. You can’t really go into a match thinking ‘Oh I’m going to come out losing or anything of that sort.’ She always had her mindset in the right place.’’
“I also think she’s a very flexible player ... she is able to kind of adjust her game to who she’s playing so she can play with them and play against them,’’ Rosati added. “She’s just very good at almost reading the other player’s game and using that to her advantage.’’
Skorich’s matches against Delich in the same week also stood out for the first-year coach.
“The nerves were definitely there and Mary went in and used that flexibility that she has. She kind of read Lydia’s game. She stayed in it. She didn’t go into every point trying to hit winners or just really get by her. She was really patient.’’
Two days later, Skorich was a little nervous again, but she again stayed in the game. She stayed patient. She’s just a very smart player.’’
Those clutch victories showed a lot of growth, the coach added. “That’s definitely a big part of tennis, that patience and using their game to your advantage. … She was very good at keeping that patience and playing the game very smart for the perfect time to place the ball where she needs to.’’
In a fall season that almost didn’t happen due to the coronavirus, Skorich took upon herself to improve.
“This year was more about playing to play and just not worrying about winning or losing. Just bettering myself as a player.’’
That became a bit more difficult in 2020 due to the pandemic canceling Virginia’s summer tennis program and the Gustavus Adolphus College camp she usually takes part in.
“I lost out on a lot of things in the preseason that I would have usually had. It was more of finding it in myself to figure out other people.’’ Skorich said she hit with some of the older players down at the courts and also found new people to kind of teach her how to get better. “You kind of had to work on yourself,’’ she added.
Rosati helped Skorich adapt to the COVID-impacted season, as well.
“She brought more on the positivity side and keeping your head up, especially through this hard year and trying to keep us all motivated,’’ Skorich said.
Former head coach Jeff Mauston also played a role and the Virginia senior thanked Mauston for always being there for her, even through this year.
“I always talk to him. We got really close over the six years,’’ said Skorich, who was a seventh grader the year Mauston started coaching the girls’ team. “He was always rooting for me in the back. I think that really helped me to be the player I was because I knew someone was always there.’’
Skorich first tried out for and made the varsity team as a seventh grader, which boosted her confidence and set her on a path of athletic success.
“Even through tryouts I was really proud of myself. I only lost one challenge match in tryouts my seventh grade year. I think I surprised a lot of people. From that moment on I just never gave up and I always worked to better myself as a player. I knew that no matter what there’s always something to improve on.’’
Skorich made the most of her time on the court, with numerous accomplishments.
The six-year varsity player is the last six-year varsity girls’ tennis player due to the future combination with the Eveleth-Gilbert tennis program.
Skorich, who was captain her junior and senior years, played 94 varsity matches and compiled a record of 72-22. In three-set matches, she was a stellar 10-1.
During her time as a player, Virginia won four region championships and took second in the region once. Skorich and the Blue Devils earned four trips to state. She also won a pair of individual singles third-place medals.
While playing USTA Regional Team Tennis, she won first place in 2015 along with her teammates Lydia and Jared Delich (E-G) and Abigail Sullivan (Hibbing). In 2020, she also captured the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association Academic All-State Award.
The daughter of Peter and Brenda Skorich, Mary plans to study English writing at Concordia in Moorhead next fall and also play tennis.
“I knew I wanted to play tennis when I went to college. For me I wanted to go to a school where I would get the education that I wanted over anything.’’
At the same time, she knew there was a possibility she’d go to a school where she wouldn’t be playing tennis. In the end, things worked out so she could do both at Concordia.
“Last winter/fall I went out there for the Concordia Choir Concert with the band and choir directors from Virginia and fell in love with the school.’’
She checked out the Concordia tennis program while she was there and found out she knew the coach from when he instructed her at the Gustavus tennis camp. She went on to meet with him at the Concordia tennis facility, which she fell in love with.
“I think it’s a good fit for me.’’
Rosati believes Skorich will do well at Concordia.
“She’s definitely a player that can play at different levels and she’s good at adjusting her game to a way that — no matter who she’s playing — she can still switch it up,’’ which is a great skill to have in college athletics. “She’ll do very well.’’
Looking back on her career, Skorich said her parents played an especially important role and she wouldn’t have reached the heights she did without them.
“I’d like to just thank my parents for always being there.’’
In addition to Skorich, the All-Iron Range Girls’ Team includes:
— Jacie Smith, Anneka Lundgren and Jayda Westerbur of Virginia.
— Abigail Sullivan and Maddie Rewertz of Hibbing.
— Lydia Delich and Julia Lindseth of Eveleth-Gilbert/Mesabi East.
— Eva Kangas and Jordan Troumbly of Grand Rapids/Greenway