Girls Tennis: Park Rapids showed improvement
The Panthers went 9-13 in dual meets, sent doubles team to state.
Even though the Park Rapids girls tennis team didn’t meet its goal of producing a winning record in dual meets, head coach Brianne Morris was pleased with the progress her players made.
The Panthers ended the season with a 9-13 record in duals and received the No. 3 seed for the Section 8A tournament, losing in the semifinals. Park Rapids did accomplish its other main goal by qualifying players for the state Class A tournament. Seniors Mickey Clark and Macy Goochey capped off the season as the section runner-up in doubles to qualify for their first state tournament.
““I knew this season was going to be a learning season for us,” said Morris, who was named the Section 8A Coach of the Year. “We lost four girls last year who had a lot of experience. We knew this year we would be putting girls into positions that they have never played and we couldn't be prouder with how they did.”
In the season opener, the Panthers finished seventh out of eight teams at the Park Rapids Invitational with 7 points as Minnewaska Area took first with 18 points. Park Rapids then won three of its first four dual meets with a 7-0 win over Morris Area, a 4-3 loss to Fergus Falls, and 7-0 victories over Yellow Medicine East and Sauk Centre.
A four-match losing streak followed as the Panthers were defeated by Pequot Lakes (6-1) in the Mid-State Conference opener, Crookston (5-2) in a section match, and Detroit Lakes (5-2) and Crosby-Ironton (4-3) in conference matches. After a 4-3 conference win over Wadena-Deer Creek, Park Rapids went through another four-match losing streak with losses to Thief River Falls (6-1), Bemidji (6-1), Perham/New York Mills (6-1) and Bemidji (5-2).
A 4-2 section win over Parkers Prairie was followed with a 5-2 loss to East Grand Forks, a 6-1 section win over Roseau, a 5-2 loss to Crookston and a 6-1 win over Roseau. Park Rapids ended the conference schedule with a 5-2 loss to Staples-Motley before ending the regular season with a 6-1 victory over Parkers Prairie in a section match.
The Panthers defeated No. 6 Parkers Prairie 5-2 in the section quarterfinals before being eliminated with a 6-1 loss to No. 2 Crookston in the semifinals. No. 1 Staples-Motley edged Crookston 4-3 in the section title match. Staples-Motley was rated No. 8 and Crookston was rated No. 9 in the state poll.
Also competing for the Panthers this season were senior Morgan Koppelman; junior Lauren Cunningham; sophomores Nora Bolton, Kate Dravis, Ella Ehler, Destiny Haddy, Shailyn Hayes, Emmy Goochey, Abby Runyan and Rachel Ulvin; and freshman Sophia Gauthier.
Clark and Macy Goochey posted a 17-4 record at No. 1 doubles with Clark going 1-0 at No. 1 singles, 1-0 at No. 2 singles, 18-4 at No. 1 doubles and 3-3 during the section and state tournaments for a 23-7 overall record while Macy Goochey went 1-0 at No. 2 singles, 18-4 at No. 1 doubles, 1-0 at No. 2 doubles and 3-3 in the postseason for a 23-7 overall record.
Koppelman compiled a 13-10 record at No. 1 singles and a 1-1 record at No. 1 doubles while going 2-2 at the section tournament for a 16-13 overall record. Koppelman just missed qualifying for state after dropping a true-second match in singles at the section tournament.
Hayes held the No. 2 singles spot, going 6-15 at that position while adding a 1-0 record at No. 3 singles, a 2-0 record at No. 1 doubles and a 1-1 record in singles at the section tournament for a 10-16 overall mark.
Emmy Goochey and Runyan returned to the starting lineup at No. 2 doubles, posting a 10-12 record as partners after dropping a first-round doubles match at the section meet. Emmy Goochey had a 12-13 overall record while Runyan posted an 11-14 overall record.
Ehler earned the No. 3 singles spot, going 10-12 at that position, while finishing with a 12-13 overall record after posting a 1-0 record at No. 2 singles and a 1-1 record at No. 2 doubles.
Dravis and Ulvin played No. 3 doubles most of the season, going 4-10 as partners. Dravis also had a 4-3 record at No. 4 singles and went 6-12 in doubles for a 10-15 record while Ulvin went 1-0 at No. 4 singles and 6-12 at No. 3 doubles for a 7-12 overall mark.
Bolton posted a 7-12 overall record, including a 2-0 record at No. 3 singles, a 2-8 mark at No. 4 singles and a 3-4 record at No. 3 doubles.
Filling in were Cunningham (0-4 at No. 4 singles and 0-1 at No. 3 doubles), Haddy (0-2 at No. 4 singles and 0-2 at No. 3 doubles) and Gauthier (0-1 at No. 4 singles and 0-1 at No. 3 doubles).
Clark, Macy Goochey and Koppelman received all-conference honors and shared team MVP honors while Hayes was a Mid-State honorable mention player. Other team awards went to Koppelman (Most Dedicated), Macy Goochey and Clark (Team Spirit), Bolton (Most Improved) and Ehler (Rookie of the Year). Koppelman also received All-State Academic honors as the Panthers received a Silver Academic Award for having a team GPA between 3.50 and 3.74.
“We were so happy to see the girls grow and improve all year,” said Morris. “Many went from no varsity experience to playing varsity every meet. They played amazing all year and improved every meet. It was so fun to see them go out on the court and give it 110% each match even though they knew they were going against tougher competition with more experience.”
Next season the Panthers will again have to replace three key singles and doubles players. However, Morris is looking forward to seeing another season of growth from her team.
“The three seniors were such great players, awesome leaders and even better people. They have been on varsity for 4 to 5 years and it's hard to replace that experience and leadership. What they brought on the court each time can't be replaced, but we know that they also taught the younger girls determination, competitiveness, how to be a good teammate and how to play with good sportsmanship. They will be missed,” said Morris. “We are excited to see what happens next year. Most teams in our section and conference have a ton of juniors, so we are going to continue to learn and grow. We also know that our girls are excited to keep playing and will work hard in the off season to continue to improve and be competitive in the section and conference.”