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Alex tennis: Cards shift focus to section tourney

Alexandria’s Rachel Sjostrand reached high to put away a return in her first doubles match against Brainerd on Tuesday night. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

The Alexandria tennis team couldn’t gain any momentum heading into the Section 8AA tournament as the Cardinals dropped their third match in the last four contests in a 5-2 loss to Brainerd on Tuesday night.

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Alexandria hosted senior night and the last matches at the Discovery Middle School courts but couldn’t sustain some early leads against the Central Lakes Conference’s second-place team. The only wins for the Cardinals came at second and fourth singles.

Senior Carly Snell did her part by overcoming a tough first set to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 against Caitlin Steffen at second singles. Fellow senior Hannah Vickstrom had no problems in her fourth singles spot, winning 6-1, 6-1 over Emily Price.

Alexandria held leads at every doubles spot, but the Warriors rallied to win every one in straight sets. Marissa Wheeler and Rachel Sjostrand teamed up for the Cardinals at first doubles and saw an early advantage turn into a 6-3, 6-2 loss.

“They definitely knew how to hit it hard and stay consistent,” Sjostrand said of Brainerd’s Brooke Mimmack and Ashley Fitterer. “They were beasts at the net to say the least.”

Alexandria’s Ellie Bergstrand also held a 3-0 advantage in the opening set before Brainerd’s Sara Wennerstrand stormed back. Wennerstrand won the next 12 games after that to roll to a 6-3, 6-0 win at first singles.

The Cardinals have to settle for gaining some experience against quality opponents, even though they came in losses, as they head into the tournament today, Friday. Alexandria had won 10 straight before dropping matches against St. Cloud Tech, Thief River Falls and now Brainerd.

“It’s really important to learn what you can as soon as you can,” Wheeler said of the key to beating good teams like that. “Just change things up if it’s not working.”

The Cardinals know they will have to go through plenty of good opponents if they are going to advance through the 8AA-North subsection. Alexandria had a goal of earning the top seed in the North but fell to the fourth seed after the three late losses. Still, the Cardinals believe it was beneficial to play teams like St. Cloud Tech and Brainerd late in the season to prepare them for what’s ahead.

“I think it’s really good practice for us because we need to play against better teams,” Sjostrand said. “We went through a streak of easier teams I guess you could say. This was a good opportunity for us.”

With the win, Brainerd secured second place in the CLC as Alexandria finished third. The Warriors only conference loss of the season came against a dominant St. Cloud Tech team that finished undefeated in league play. Both Tech and Brainerd are members of the 8AA field.

“It’s a good last experience for us going into sections,” Wheeler said of the Warriors. “We knew it was going to be a tough match. We tried some new things with the lineup and it didn’t work against Tech so we went back to our old lineup for this one. We thought maybe we could get an advantage, but they’re just a good team.”

The final home match was also an opportunity to send off nine seniors in Sjostrand, Wheeler, Snell, Vickstrom, Abby Telander, Jenna Steffl, Alyssa Hanson, Jenna Zwiers and Ramey Rudolph. Many of them hope to extend their stay as they head to Grand Forks for the team tournament today.

“I think it’s just to play the best that we can,” Wheeler said of their goal at sections. “We know we can play well and compete with the teams up there. We just want to have fun.”


Brainerd 5, Alexandria 2

SINGLES – No. 1 – Sara Wennerstrand (B) def. Bergstrand, 6-3, 6-0; No. 2 – Snell (A) def. Caitlin Steffen, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4; No. 3 – Payge Fitterer (B) def. Bria Schueler, 7-5, 6-4; No. 4 – Vickstrom (A) def. Emily Price, 6-1, 6-1

DOUBLES – No. 1 – Mimmack/Fitterer (B) def. Wheeler/Sjostrand, 6-3, 6-2; No. 2 – Kristina Anderson/Claire Gunsbury (B) def. Kim Wilkins/Kerri Wilkins, 6-3, 6-2; No. 3 – Kennedy Rust/Hannah Moen (B) def. Steffl/Telander, 6-4, 6-1

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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