Tennis duo earns state bid!
With the Blue Earth Area girls tennis team already qualifying for state, it was onto the Class 3A Individual Sectional Tournament. The state qualifying tournament began on Oct. 6 and wrapped up on Oct. 11 at Gustavus Adolphus College.
During the regular season, senior Julia Hanson and freshman Ta Armstrong played the No. 2 singles and No. 4 singles position for the Bucs respectively. However, both singles players joined forces to create a formidable tandem in doubles competition during the sectional tournament.
As the number three seed, Hanson and Armstrong took care of their first round opponent, 6-3, 6-1, in a win over Fairmont’s Sydney Hainy and Brittany Bass.
It was more of the same from the Blue Earth Area girls in the quarterfinal round. Hanson and Armstrong defeated Hannah Loewen and Jaelyn Haler of St. James Area, 6-4, 6-1.
BEA’s semifinal match against the second seeded Pipestone combination of Lauren Lapthorn and Paige Ahrendt proved to be a battle of will and intestinal fortitude. After winning the first set easily, 6-1, Hanson and Armstrong were overmatched in the second set, losing 6-2.
Shaken but not stirred, Hanson and Armstrong came back with a vengeance and closed out the match with a convincing win in the third set, 6-2.
From there, the Blue Earth Area girls advanced to the finals for a showdown with the top seeded USC combination of Emma Barnd and Carly Weber. After a tough first set which saw Barnd and Weber prevail, 7-5, the USC girls punched their own ticket to state with a decisive 6-0 second set win over Hanson and Armstrong.
With one final chance to make their dreams of individual statewide competition a reality, Hanson and Armstrong came through in the clutch. The BEA girls defeated Maple River’s fifth-seeded duo of Abby Bruegger and Katelyn Langworthy, 6-4, 6-3, to claim second place and a trip to state.
Interestingly enough, the pairing of Hanson and Armstrong was not a coaching decision. Rather, the two girls decided this combination gave BEA the best chance to produce two individual state qualifiers.
As both girls were singles players throughout the year, they had very little practice time to prepare for the sectional tournament. BEA head coach Konny Wolff said Hanson and Armstrong had all of two days to practice with one another before tournament play began.
“They are both very good and consistent players in singles,” Wolff said. “They really cover the court well and they also communicate with each other, I think that’s why they had so much success.”
Going from a 6-9 finish last year to a 17-2 mark with two individual state qualifiers and a team state qualification this year, it has been a banner year for Buccaneers girls tennis. Coach Wolff knows the tremendous success in 2017 means big things for the program in the future.
“It’s a big boost for the program because it means more eyes will be on us and people will come out in bigger numbers next year,” Wolff said. “It’s been a Cinderella season for sure.”
State tournament team competition will be held on Oct. 24 and 25 at the Reed Sweatt Tennis Center in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, individual competition will also be held at the tennis center on Oct. 26 and 27.