Panthers peaking at right time
Nicole Brandt likes the chances of the Park Rapids girls tennis team to qualify for the state Class A tournament for the first time in school history.
Even though the Panthers enter the Section 8A tournament as the No. 3 seed, Brandt knows her team was one singles or doubles match away from being the top seed.
During the regular season, the Panthers split 4-3 matches with Pequot Lakes and dropped another close 4-3 match to Staples-Motley. Pequot Lakes edged Staples-Motley 4-3 in their only meeting.
Based on those results, Pequot Lakes earned the No. 1 seed and Staples-Motley was seeded No. 2, leaving the Panthers in the No. 3 spot.
Park Rapids will open the section tournament against No. 6 East Grand Forks Tuesday at the Grand Forks Center Courts. No. 4 Crookston will play No. 5 Roseau, Staples-Motley will play No. 7 Wadena-Deer Creek and Pequot Lakes will face either Perham or New York Mills. Those two teams will face off for the No. 8 seed.
The section semifinals and finals return to Grand Forks next Friday morning with the section championship match following at approximately 1 p.m. The first round of the Section 8A individual tournament will be held following the completion of the team tournament Friday at approximately 3 p.m.
In the individual tournament, Park Rapids has three entrants in the top-five spots.
Allie Girtz and Bonnie Baumgartner are the No. 1 seed in doubles while Christina Smith (No. 3) and Julia Renner (No. 5) are top contenders in the singles bracket. Lexi Burlingame and Katie Walsh are seeded No. 11 in doubles.
Baumgartner and Girtz are undefeated against section opponents and carry a 22-2 record at No. 1 doubles into the section meet. Burlingame and Walsh are 15-9 as doubles partners, including a 14-8 record at No. 2 doubles.
Smith has a 14-7 record at No. 1 singles while Renner is 4-3 at No. 1 singles and 19-2 at No. 2 singles.
The other top section seeds in doubles are No. 2 Maggie O'Keefe and Kelsey Zetah of Staples-Motley, No. 3 Tricia Villella and Haley Wiebolt of Pequot Lakes, and No. 4 Bethany Tangen and Bailey Janzen of Roseau.
Jessamy Jones of East Grand Forks is the No. 1 seed in singles and is ranked No. 4 in the latest state Class A poll. Staples-Motley's Mikayla Wing is the No. 2 seed while Roseau's Taylor McFarlane is seeded No. 4 in singles. Wing and McFarlane were listed as honorable mention players in this week's state Class A poll.
Jones won the section singles title last year while McFarlane and Tangen qualified for state in doubles last season.
The individual quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will be played next Saturday at Grand Forks.
The Panthers tuned up for the section tournament by defeating East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls in a rescheduled triangular meet Monday at the Depot Courts.
Park Rapids used a sweep in doubles to spark a 6-1 win over East Grand Forks in the first match.
Girtz and Baumgartner at No. 1 doubles, Burlingame and Walsh at No. 2 doubles, and Taylor Wheeler and Charity Ridlon at No. 3 doubles combined to lose only 10 games in the three doubles matches.
Renner posted a straight-set win at No. 2 singles and Heidi Schaum won in straight sets at No. 4 singles while Lydia Schaum prevailed in a third-set tiebreaker at No. 3 singles to cap off the win. Smith won eight games in a straight-set loss to Jones.
Park Rapids used a sweep in singles to end the regular season with a 6-1 victory over Thief River Falls.
Smith, Renner and Lydia Schaum combined to drop only seven games in the top-three singles matches while Heidi Schaum prevailed in a first-set tiebreaker to win in straight sets at No. 4 singles.
Girtz and Baumgartner used a tiebreaker win in the first set to prevail at No. 1 doubles while Wheeler and Ridlon posted a straight-set win at No. 3 doubles. Walsh and Burlingame dropped a third-set tiebreaker at No. 3 doubles.
The Panthers, who ended the regular season with an eight-meet winning streak, will carry an 11-5 record into Tuesday's quarterfinal match against East Grand Forks.
Park Rapids 6, East Grand Forks 1
No. 1 singles: Jessamy Jones, EGF, over Christina Smith 6-4, 6-4.
No. 2 singles: Julia Renner, PR, over Chessa Jones 6-1, 6-0.
No. 3 singles: Lydia Schaum, PR, over Erika Pritchett 6-1, 5-7, 11-9.
No. 4 singles: Heidi Schaum, PR, over Emma Dietrich 6-0, 6-0.
No. 1 doubles: Bonnie Baumgartner/Allie Girtz, PR, over Lilly Mankie/Bethany Driscoll 6-3, 6-0.
No. 2 doubles: Lexi Burlingame/Katie Walsh, PR, over Kelli Radi/Katie Berggren 6-3, 6-0.
No. 3 doubles: Taylor Wheeler/Charity Ridlon, PR, over Kaity Randall/Ashley Normandin 6-1, 6-3.
Park Rapids 6, Thief River Falls 1
No. 1 singles: Christina Smith, PR, over Paige Lofberg 6-1, 6-0.
No. 2 singles: Julia Renner, PR, over Sam Huot 6-1, 6-1.
No. 3 singles: Lydia Schaum, PR, over Carli Lunsetter 6-1, 6-3.
No. 4 singles: Heidi Schaum, PR, over Patti Marshall 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.
No. 1 doubles: Bonnie Baumgartner/Allie Girtz, PR, over Sabrina Okeson/Kaylee Koop 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.
No. 2 doubles: Sylvia Marolt/Karlee Jorgenson, TRF, over Lexi Burlingame/Katie Walsh 6-3, 4-6, 14-12.
No. 3 doubles: Taylor Wheeler/Charity Ridlon ,PR, over Franny Marshall/Sheena Lee 6-2, 6-2.