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Panthers advance three players to state

  Brianne Morris expected the Park Rapids girls tennis team to send a doubles team and a singles player to the state Class A tournament.

     The Park Rapids head coach had that prediction fulfilled Saturday at the Choice Health and Fitness Club in Grand Forks as seniors Christina Smith and Julia Renner defended their section title in doubles while freshman Julia Smith backed her No. 2 seed by finishing second in singles to qualify for state.

     This marked only the third time in school history that the Panthers qualified both a singles player and a doubles team for state in the same season. Allison Reich advanced in singles while Tanya Peterson and Jennifer Pederson qualified in doubles in 1991 while Alison Utke qualified in singles and Amy Luther and Lindsey Czeczok advanced in doubles in 2005.

     “I thought Julia and Christina had a good chance at repeating as section champs because they are two of the top players in the section. The only thing I was worried about is that they didn’t have many chances to play doubles together because we were really focusing on the team this year. When the draw came out, many teams put their top two players in doubles, so I knew they would have to work hard to repeat as champions and they did exactly that,” said Morris. “When so many teams put their top players in doubles, I knew Julia had a really good shot at making it to state. She had beaten everyone in singles except (Staples-Motley’s) Mikayla Wing, who was the No. 1 seed, so she had a lot of confidence going in.”

     Smith and Renner, who entered the section meet as the No. 1 seed with a 9-1 record, coasted to the finals with a 6-0, 6-0 win over No. 17-seeded Alyssa Morris and Julia Pearson of Perham; a 6-1, 6-0 victory over No. 8-seeded Kaity Randall and Ashley Normandin of East Grand Forks; and a 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 4-seeded Jaden Lindner and Haley Wiebolt of Pequot Lakes.

     In the finals, the Park Rapids seniors defeated No. 2-seeded Kelsey Zetah and Nikki Edin of Staples-Motley 6-3, 6-3.

     Smith and Renner, who have a 32-3 record as doubles partners the last two seasons, finished fourth last season to become the first Park Rapids doubles team to place at the state tournament.

     Julia Smith took a similar route to the championship match in singles.

     Smith coasted to the finals with a 6-0, 6-1 win over No. 15 Lydia Shafer of Crookston; a 6-0, 6-0 victory over No. 10 Lauren Bengtson of Pequot Lakes; and a 6-0, 6-3 win over No. 3 Bethany Tangen of Roseau.

     Wing defeated Smith 6-3, 6-2 in the title match. Wing is rated No. 7 in the state.

     East Grand Forks’ Chessa Jones, the No. 4 seed, defeated Tangen 6-1, 6-3 in the third-place match to set up a true-second match with Smith for the other state berth. Smith avenged a loss to Jones during the regular season with a 6-3, 6-1 victory to qualify for her first state tournament.

     The three state qualifiers will open the Class A tournament next Thursday at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.

     “They all played great; very smart, consistent and confident. I was very impressed with all of them all weekend long,” said Morris. “I think that they will play hard and do their best at the state meet. They are all very confident in their games and know what they need to do to win.”

     Park Rapids’ Lindsey Girtz, the No. 9 seed in singles, defeated No. 8 Kennedy Resendez of Crookston 6-4, 6-4 in the first round before being eliminated with a 6-0, 6-2 loss to Wing in the quarterfinals.

     Park Rapids’ other doubles team – Charity Ridlon and Hope Johnson – received the No. 11 seed and were eliminated with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 loss to No. 6 Bailey Janzen and Marrisa Jevne of Roseau in the first round.


First round

Maddy Hinojos, Wadena-Deer Creek, over Josie Beachy, Perham, 6-1, 7-5; Mikayla Wing, Staples-Motley, over Hinojos 6-1, 6-0; Lindsey Girtz, Park Rapids, over Kennedy Resendez, Crookston, 6-4, 6-4; Sarah Koopman, Staples-Motley, over Juli Miller, Roseau, 6-0, 6-3; Chessa Jones, East Grand Forks, over Maggie Rennicke, Perham, 6-1, 6-1; Bethany Tangen, Roseau, over Victoria Selander, New York Mills, 6-0, 6-1; Sydney Holt, Pequot Lakes, over Emily Stezishar, East Grand Forks, 6-0, 6-0; Lauren Bengtson, Pequot Lakes, over Paige Hartman, Wadena-Deer Creek, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3; Lydia Shafer, Crookston, over Abby Salo, New York Mills, 6-3, 6-2; Julia Smith, Park Rapids, over Shafer 6-0, 6-1.


Wing over Girtz 6-0, 6-2; Jones over Koopman 6-1, 6-3; Tangen over Holt 6-1, 6-3; Smith over Bengtson 6-0, 6-0.


Wing over Jones 6-3, 6-1; Smith over Tangen 6-0, 6-3.


Wing over Smith 6-3, 6-2 (title); Jones over Tangen 6-1, 6-3 (third); Smith over Jones 6-3, 6-1 (true second).


First round

Alyssa Morris/Julia Pearson, Perham over Jordan Roberts/Mallory Weber, New York Mills, 6-0, 3-6, 7-6 (10-8); Christina Smith/Julia Renner, Park Rapids, over Morris/Pearson 6-0, 6-0; Kaity Randall/Ashley Normandin, East Grand Forks, over Erin Johnson/Whitney Eickhoff, Wadena-Deer Creek, 6-1, 6-4; Emily Israelson/Grace Wolhowe, Staples-Motley, over Sarina Goos/Morgan Bicker, Roseau, 6-1, 6-0; Jaden Lindner/Haley Wiebolt, Pequot Lakes, over Emma Dietrich/Cynthia Loven, East Grand Forks, 6-1, 6-2; Amber Trostad/Ally Tiedemann, Crookston, over Elsie Kallevig/Abby Wegshield, Wadena-Deer Creek, 6-0, 6-0; Bailey Janzen/Marrisa Jevne, Roseau, over Charity Ridlon/Hope Johnson, Park Rapids, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3; Amber Trostad/Liz Awender, Crookston, over Eleanor Erholtz/Carly Fyle, Pequot Lakes, 6-1, 6-4; Katie Howey/Betsey Pearson, Perham, over Kori Salo/Maddy Koskitalo, New York Mills, 6-2, 6-3; Kelsey Zetah/Nikki Edin, Staples-Motley, over Howey/Pearson 6-0, 6-0.


Smith/Renner over Randall/Normandin 6-1, 6-0; Lindner/Wiebolt over Israelson/Wolhowe 6-4, 6-3; Janzen/Jevne over Trostad/Tiedemann 6-2, 2-6, 6-3; Zetah/Edin over Trostad/Awender 6-3, 6-4.


Smith/Renner over Lindner/Wiebolt 6-2, 6-1; Zetah/Edin over Janzen/Jevne 6-2, 6-3.


Smith/Renner over Zetah/Edin 6-3, 6-3 (title); Janzen/Jevne over Lindner/Wiebolt 6-4, 6-3 (third).