Before the season began, Park Rapids head coach Brianne Morris predicted seniors Natalie Kinkel and Kendra Coborn and freshman Abby Morris would contend for trips to the state Class A girls tennis tournament.
Those three fulfilled that prediction by winning titles during Saturday’s finals of the Section 8A tournament at Fargo’s Courts Plus.
Kinkel, who entered the section meet as the No. 1 seed in singles, lived up to that ranking and earned a return trip to state by defeating Crookston’s Hayden Winjum 6-0, 6-0 in Saturday’s championship match.
Coborn and Morris entered the section meet as the No. 3 seed in doubles and improved on that ranking by defeating Parkers Prairie’s Abby Burquest and Megan Arens 6-3, 6-2 in Saturday’s finals to claim the section title and earn their first trips to state.
“It feels great having both a doubles team and a singles player going to the state meet again,” said Park Rapids head coach Brianne Morris. “I feel that all three can compete with anyone in the section. They have consistently given us wins all year long in every meet. When they all made it to the finals, it was so fun to see them shine and for everyone else to see what the rest of us have witnessed all year long; strong, talented athletes who work to do their best each time they step on the court.”
While Kinkel coasted through the singles field, Coborn and Morris had to battle to qualify for state in doubles.
During Friday's first two rounds, Kinkel defeated No. 16 Meggie Reigstad of Parkers Prairie 6-0, 6-0 and No. 9 Jade Lenius of Perham 6-0, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. During Saturday's semifinals, Kinkel defeated No. 4 Jodi Ostroski (who defeated Kinkel in last year's title match) 6-0, 6-1 before not dropping a game to the No. 3-seeded Winjum in the championship match.
“I thought Natalie handled the No. 1 seed well. She had played everyone in the section and knew that she could beat them all,” said Morris. “She was confident and ready to go each time she stepped on the court. I knew if she played like she did all year for us she had a pretty good chance of getting back to state.”
In doubles, Coborn and Morris began Friday's first rounds with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Katlyn Velde and Reghan DeBoer of Parkers Prairie (the No. 14 seed) before surviving with a 7-6, 7-5 victory over Kiana Flaig and Grace Walsh of Roseau (the No. 6 seed) in the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, the Park Rapids duo won another close match by defeating Crookston's Catherine Tiedemann and Emma Borowicz (the No. 2 seed) 7-6, 6-4 before defeating the No. 4-seeded duo from Parkers Prairie in straight sets in the championship match.
“I knew that Abby and Kendra could beat any of the players that they were playing in doubles. I knew the biggest obstacle for them was the fact that they really didn't play together all year. They basically got one match at the very end of the season,” said Morris. “Because they are both smart tennis players and so athletic, they were able to beat teams on their talent. They clicked well because they know what they are doing and because they took the advice from others and really listened when being coached.”
Those three will open the state tournament Oct. 25 at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.
“I expect them all to go out and compete hard and hopefully win a match or two,” said Morris. “There is great competition down there, but getting there is so great.”
Park Rapids' other two section entrants were eliminated in the first round.
Rachael Herman (the No. 14 seed in singles) dropped a 6-4, 6-1 decision to Winjum while Chloe Johnson and Jada Renneberg (the No. 10 seed in doubles) opened with a 6-0, 6-3 loss to East Grand Forks' McKenna Aitchison and Delaney Aaker (the No. 7 seed).
Park Rapids also reached the section finals in the team tournament.
The Panthers entered as the No. 1 seed and opened with a 4-3 win over No. 8 Roseau in Thursday's quarterfinals before defeating No. 4 Crookston 4-3 in Thursday's semifinals. Park Rapids swept the singles matches in both of those wins with Kinkel, Morris, Coborn and Chloe Johnson winning in straight sets against Roseau and Kinkel, Morris and Coborn winning in straight sets and Johnson rallying to win in three sets against Crookston.
East Grand Forks, the No. 2 seed, prevented the Panthers from earning their first trip to state in school history with a 5-2 victory in Friday's championship match.SINGLES DOUBLES