Brianne Morris knew the Park Rapids girls tennis team would face a fierce battle in order to win the Section 8A title for the first time in school history.
During the regular season, the Panthers defeated Wadena-Deer Creek 5-2 in a close contest that featured three matches that went three sets, split matches with Crookston (losing 5-2 and winning 4-3) and won a close match against Staples-Motley (4-3) in a dual that had four matches decided in a third set.
With those outcomes, the Panthers received the No. 1 seed for the section tournament with Crookston at No. 2, Staples-Motley at No. 3 and Wadena-Deer Creek at No. 4.
The first semifinal match at Fargo’s Courts Plus on Tuesday, Oct. 12, was a marathon battle that lasted more than three hours with Wadena-Deer Creek surviving with a 5-2 win. Six of the seven matches went three sets with the Wolverines prevailing in five of them to advance to the section championship match while preventing Park Rapids from playing for that elusive state trip.
“It was great tennis played by both sides, but sadly we came up short,” said Morris.
In the meeting between these two teams during the regular season, Morgan Koppelman defeated Libby Hartman 6-3, 6-4 at No. 3 singles and Shailyn Hayes defeated Cadie Leeseberg 6-1, 6-1 at No. 4 singles.
W-DC countered with Corra Endres’ 6-3, 6-3 win over Rachael Herman at No. 2 singles and a 6-3, 6-3 win by Katie Fiemeyer and Anna Fiemeyer over Mickey Clark and Macy Goochey at No. 1 doubles.
The deciding matches were decided in three sets. Abby Morris edged Madison Packer 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 at No. 1 singles. Natalie Harvey and Emily Schulz outlasted Mercedes Schulz and Kayla Meeks 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 at No. 2 doubles. Emmy Goochey and Abby Runyan rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Kelanie Oldakowski and Jamie Barthel at No. 3 doubles.
In the section semifinals, the Wolverines flipped matches at No. 1 singles, No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles to advance to the finals.
Hayes was the first player off the court with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Kaylee Endres at No. 4 singles while Emmy Goochey and Runyan earned the Panthers’ other win by rallying to defeat Barthel and Kelly Muckala 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) at No. 3 doubles.
The Wolverines won the other five matches in three-set battles.
Packer prevailed over Morris 2-6, 6-4, 10-1 at No. 1 singles in a matchup of two of the state’s top-rated singles players. Packer was rated No. 18 and Morris was rated No. 11 in the latest state poll. Corra Endres outlasted Herman 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 at No 2 singles and Hartman posted a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win over Koppelman at No. 3 singles.
The Fiemeyers rallied for a 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Clark and Macy Goochey at No. 1 doubles while Meeks and Schulz overcame a loss in a first-set tiebreaker for a 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-2 win over Harvey and Schulz at No. 2 doubles.
W-DC, which was rated No. 20 in the latest state poll, improved to 9-8. Park Rapids, which was rated No. 14 in the state poll, ended the season with a 15-5 record.
Crookston defeated W-DC 5-2 for the section title and a state berth. The Pirates will carry a 19-2 record and the No. 5 ranking among Class A teams to state.
In the Section 8A quarterfinals on Oct. 7, Crookston blanked No. 7 Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 7-0, Staples-Motley shut out No. 6 Parkers Prairie 7-0 and Wadena-Deer Creek eliminated No. 5 Roseau 6-1. Crookston advanced to the finals with a 5-2 win over Staples-Motley, which was rated No. 18 in the state poll.