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Smith caps off season with solid state meet

Christina Smith played her best tennis of the season to qualify for her second trip to the state Class A girls tennis tournament.

The Park Rapids sophomore was hoping to play well in her singles debut at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.

Despite not advancing to Friday's finals, Smith was competitive in her two state singles matches Thursday.

Smith opened with a 6-1, 6-4 loss to Annandale junior Kaytlin Kuefler in Thursday morning's first round and followed with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-0) loss to Stewartville junior Elizabeth Bardwell in Thursday afternoon's consolation round.

Kuefler was rated No. 10 in the final state Class A poll and ended up finishing fourth, losing to East Grand Forks' Jessamy Jones 6-2, 6-4. Bardwell advanced to the consolation title match before losing to St. James senior Paige Olson 6-3, 6-4.

Mounds Park Academy senior Amber Washington defeated St. Paul Academy & Summit School sophomore Sonya Das 6-4, 7-5 in the championship match. Washington repeated as the Class A singles champion after winning four straight state Class A doubles titles.

Jones, who defeated Smith in the Section 8A championship match, capped off her junior season with her third straight medal. Jones, who was rated No. 4 entering state, won the consolation title in 2009 before placing fourth last year.

Staples-Motley's Maggie O'Keefe and Kelsey Zetah lost to Osakis' Janna Juntunen and Sabrina Zimmel 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7) before defeating Rochester Lourdes' Kristen Brandhagen and Rachel Kamath 4-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in the consolation round Thursday. O'Keefe and Zetah were eliminated with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 loss to Lac qui Parle Valley's Patricia Ott and Kelle Thompson Friday morning.

Crookston's Bailey Morris and Lilli Denison lost both their matches Thursday, falling to St. Paul Academy's Sarah Hays and Gina Nguyen 6-1, 6-1 and Sauk Centre's Kady Buschette and Mariah Rieland 6-1, 6-4.

Elena Sullivan and Eva Sullivan of Providence Academy defeated Rochester Lourdes' Margaret Pearson and Sofia Terzic 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4) in the title match.

Smith became only the fourth singles player in the history of the Park Rapids girls tennis program to qualify for state. Smith, who became the first player in school history to qualify for state in both singles and doubles, joined Allison Reich (1991), Megan Reich (1992-95) and Alison Utke (2005) as the Panthers' state qualifiers in singles. Smith concluded her sophomore season with a 17-12 record in singles.

"Christina did a great job," said Park Rapids head coach Nicole Brandt. "She is a great singles player and I see her making it back next year."