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Panthers' state quest denied with loss to S-M

     For the third year in a row, Staples-Motley prevented the Park Rapids girls tennis team from advancing to the state Class A tournament for the first time in school history.

     Staples-Motley, the No. 1 seed, used a sweep in doubles to defeat the No. 2-seeded Panthers 4-3 in the Section 8A championship match last Friday at the Choice Health and Fitness Club in Grand Forks.

     Park Rapids, the No. 2 seed, advanced to the section championship match with a 4-3 semifinal win over No. 3 Pequot Lakes. Staples-Motley edged No. 4 Crookston 4-3 in the other semifinal.

     In the victory over Pequot Lakes, the Panthers used wins at the top three singles spots and at No. 1 doubles to advance.

     Christina Smith at No. 1 singles, Julia Smith at No. 2 singles and Hope Johnson at No. 3 singles coasted to straight-set wins while Julia Renner and Charity Ridlon prevailed in three sets at No. 1 doubles.

     The Panthers defeated Pequot Lakes 4-3 and 5-2 during the regular season.

     In the finals, the Cardinals used four straight-set wins to qualify for the state Class A tournament for the ninth consecutive season, including the last three in Section 8A.

     Julia Smith coasted to a straight-set win at No. 2 singles while Johnson (at No. 3 singles) and Mariena Dearstyne (at No. 4 singles) prevailed in three sets.

     The Cardinals, who edged the Panthers 4-3 during the regular season, eliminated Park Rapids in the section semifinals the last two seasons.

     Park Rapids, which was ranked No. 9 in the final Class A regular-season poll, ended the season with a 16-2 record with both losses to the Cardinals, who are rated No. 5 in the state.

     “I thought the girls played well and worked really hard. The girls were going after everything. I told them to leave it all on the court and they did,” said Park Rapids head coach Brianne Morris. “While they didn’t win, their hard work showed in how they played. Staples was just the better team. I was super proud of how they represented Park Rapids and did all they could to make it to state. They really did earn that second place trophy.”

Park Rapids 4, Pequot Lakes 3

No. 1 singles: Christina Smith, PR, over Haley Wiebolt 6-2, 6-2.

No. 2 singles: Julia Smith, PR, over Jaden Lindner 6-1, 6-3.

No. 3 singles: Hope Johnson, PR, over Ericka Monson 6-4, 6-2.

No. 4 singles: Maggie Heggerston, PL, over Morgan Knott 6-0, 7-5.

No. 1 doubles: Julia Renner/Charity Ridlon, PR, over Carly Fyle/Eleanor Erholtz 6-2, 2-6, 6-2.

No. 2 doubles: Sydney Holt/Lauren Bengtson, PL, over Lindsey Girtz/Sarena Kinkel 7-5, 6-2.

No. 3 doubles: Alex Nelson/Madison Galligan, PL, over Ali Walsh/Mariena Dearstyne 6-4, 6-2.

Staples-Motley 4, Park Rapids 3

No. 1 singles: Mikayla Wing, SM, over Christina Smith 6-1, 6-0.

No. 2 singles: Julia Smith, PR, over Sarah Koopman 6-0, 6-2.

No. 3 singles: Hope Johnson, PR, over Alexandra Fischer 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

No. 4 singles: Mariena Dearstyne, PR, over Lexi Johnson 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

No. 1 doubles: Kelsey Zetah/Nikki Edin, SM, over Julia Renner/Charity Ridlon 6-4, 6-3.

No. 2 doubles: Grace Wolhowe/Emily Israelson, SM, over Sarena Kinkel/Lindsey Girtz 6-1, 6-0.

No. 3 doubles: Christina Smith/Kaleigh Hosier, SM, over Ali Walsh/Morgan Knott 7-6 (7-5), 6-2.