Head coach Brianne Morris is counting on the Park Rapids girls tennis team to contend for the Section 8A title and send at least one player to the state Class A tournament this fall.

Last fall, COVID-19 limited teams to only 11 dual meets during the regular season and forced the individual portion of the section tournament to be canceled. The Panthers went 4-7 in those regular season matches before going 1-2 in the section tournament to end the season with a 5-9 record.

With 10 letterwinners returning from that squad, Morris expects the Panthers to be one of the top teams in the Mid-State Conference and challenge preseason favorite Crookston for top honors in Section 8A this season.

Returning to lead the Panthers this fall are seniors Natalie Harvey, Rachael Herman, Abby Morris and Emily Schulz; juniors Mickey Clark, Macy Goochey and Morgan Koppelman; and freshmen Shailyn Hayes, Abby Runyan and Emmy Goochey.

Morris reached her 100th career win by going 10-0 at No. 1 singles and 3-1 at No. 1 doubles while earning all-conference honors last season. Koppelman and Goochey both posted 7-7 records and earned all-conference honorable mention honors. Koppelman went 0-1 at No. 2 singles, 0-3 at No. 3 singles, 1-3 at No. 1 doubles and 6-0 at No. 2 doubles while Goochey compiled a 5-6 record at No. 1 doubles and a 2-1 record at No. 2 doubles. Herman posted a 4-4 record, going 0-2 at No. 1 singles and 4-2 at No. 2 singles. Schulz went 5-8 with an 0-1 record at No. 2 singles, a 1-1 mark at No. 3 singles and a 4-6 mark at No. 3 doubles. Clark went 0-2 at No. 1 singles, 0-1 at No. 2 singles, 4-4 at No. 3 doubles and 1-0 at No. 2 doubles for a 5-7 overall record. Harvey went 1-6 overall by going 0-1 at No. 2 singles, 1-3 at No. 3 singles, 0-1 at No. 4 singles and 0-1 at No. 3 doubles. Hayes had a 6-8 overall record by going 1-1 at No. 3 singles, 2-2 at No. 4 singles, 0-1 at No. 2 doubles and 3-4 at No. 3 doubles. Runyan went 0-1 at No. 2 doubles and 3-5 at No. 3 doubles for a 3-6 mark. Emmy Goochey went 0-2 at No. 3 doubles.

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Looking to fill the spots vacated by the graduation of Hannah Morgan (5-9 record), Cassidy Bera (4-10), Taylor Dravis (1-3) and Destiny Villarreal (0-1) are sophomore Lauren Cunningham and freshmen Nora Bolton, Kate Dravis, Ella Ehler, Destiny Haddy, Vivian Harju and Rachel Ulvin.

Battling the Panthers in Section 8A will be Crookston, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Upsala/Swanville, Parkers Prairie, Roseau, Staples-Motley and Wadena-Deer Creek. East Grand Forks, defending Section 8A runner-up Perham/New York Mills and defending Section 8A champion Thief River Falls moved up to Section 8AA.

“Our section will look very different this year with Perham, East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls moving up to AA and Staples moving back over. I feel we have some very experienced girls that will be able to compete with the teams in our section. It will still be a tough section, but I know the upperclassmen will provide a lot of good leadership for the younger girls and will be competitive in both the conference and section. The first week of practice the girls worked really hard and it was fun to see the growth over the year,” said Morris, who will be assisted by Lane Miles. “I want our team to be competitive in the section and conference, to play hard in every match giving 100% each time they go out there, and to have fun. We also hope to send an individual or two back to the state meet and as always we continue to look for the first team trip to the state meet.”