Panthers' duo wins match at state meet
Park Rapids' Alyssa Carlson and Christina Smith fulfilled their main goal at the state Class A girls tennis tournament.
Carlson and Smith became only the second doubles team in Park Rapids history to win a match at the state tournament. The Park Rapids duo also became the first doubles team in school history to play a match on the second day.
The Section 8A champions opened the state tournament at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis with a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Glencoe-Silver Lake's Jackie Stifter and Mary Arnold in Thursday morning's first round before advancing to the consolation semifinals with a 6-4, 5-7, 10-7 win over Osakis' Kiera Zimmel and Sabrina Zimmel Thursday afternoon.
In the consolation round, Carlson and Smith trailed 4-3 in the first set before winning eight of the next 11 games to win the first set and claim a 5-3 lead in the second set. The Osakis team won the next four games to force a third-set super tiebreaker. The Zimmels led 3-1 in the tie-breaker before Carlson and Smith rallied to tie it at 6-6 before winning four of the next five points to advance.
In Friday's consolation semifinals, St. Paul Academy and Summit's Gina Nguyen and Sarah Hays won several deuce games to prevail 6-1, 6-2 as Carlson and Smith ended with a 17-4 record as doubles partners this season. Nguyen (who was ranked No. 5 in the final state Class A individual poll) and Hays lost to Staples-Motley's Andrea Koskiniemi and Emma Koskiniemi 6-2, 6-2 in the consolation title match.
Rochester Lourdes' Brittany Alexander and Margaret Pearson defeated Breck's Emily Alper and Sunny Tang 6-4, 7-5 in the championship match while Virginia's Alexis Gunderson and Katie Kingston defeated Waseca's Lexie Ulfers and Hannah Flor 7-6 (7-3), 7-5 for third place.
Roseau's Taylor McFarlane and Bethany Tangen lost both their matches at state, dropping a 6-0, 6-0 decision to Alexander and Pearson and a 6-1, 6-1 decision to the Koskiniemis.
In the singles bracket, East Grand Forks' Jessamy Jones lost to St. Paul Academy and Summit's Sonya Das for third place while Roseau's Abby Ness was eliminated in the second round. Mounds Park Academy's Amber Washington (who had won the last four state doubles titles) defeated defending champion Elena Sullivan of Providence Academy for the state singles title.
Roseau, the Section 8A champion, lost to Rochester Lourdes (7-0) and Annandale (4-3) in the team tournament. Rochester Lourdes defeated Staples-Motley 6-1 in the championship match.
Carlson capped off her senior season by becoming the first Park Rapids doubles player to play in three state tournaments while Smith became the first Park Rapids doubles player to qualify for state as a freshman.
Carlson and Smith became only the eighth doubles team in school history to qualify for state. Tanya Peterson and Jennifer Pederson were the first doubles team to reach state in 1991. Megan Luther qualified for state twice, teaming with Anna Pederson in 1999 and Abbie McMorrow in 2001. Lindsey Czeczok and Amy Luther advanced to state in doubles in 2005. Mindy Lawrence and Mary Kading qualified in 2008 before Carlson and Kading teamed up to return to state last year.
Carlson and Smith joined Lawrence and Kading as the only doubles team to advance to state as the section champs. Of the state qualifiers, only Pederson and Luther had won a match at state. That duo won their first match before being eliminated in the second round.