The Alexandria girls tennis team went into the Section 8AA-North Tournament hoping to make a run into the section tournament this weekend, but the Cardinals saw that effort come up short.
Head coach Dave Ronning was proud of the season his girls had after finishing 15-10 overall. They breezed through a 7-0 win against Fergus Falls in the subsection tournament opener, but fell 5-2 in a match against second-seeded Bemidji that would have sent them into the section final four on Oct. 11 in Sartell.
“The score doesn't really show how close the match was,” Ronning said.
Joria Downing and Taylor Sayre won in three sets at first doubles, and Anna Doherty and Mckenna Aure did the same at third doubles.
Other matches were up for grabs at the third and first spots in the singles lineup, but Bemidji’s Emily Dondelinger won a three-setter against Sarah Jiang at the third spot. Savannah Haugen also won a tight second set, 7-5, against Brianna Holm at first singles to end that match.
“We are so proud of the way the girls came out and competed,” Ronning said. “Every player went out with the attitude that they could play well and help give the team a chance to advance to the section tournament. This team continued to improve all season, and we really did play our best tennis in the end.”
Ronning felt the Cardinals simply ran into a good program.
“Bemidji is a very good team all the way through their lineup and will represent our section well, along with Brainerd,” he said. “We had so many girls that contributed to the success of this team, and it really was a team effort all season long.”
The top-two seeds from each half of the bracket are left standing in the section tournament. Brainerd will face Becker on Oct. 11, and Foley will take on Bemidji. The winner of those two matches plays at 6 p.m. that same day for the title.
The Section 8AA singles and doubles tournament will get going on Saturday in Sartell, and the Cardinals have one player left standing in that. Holm will take on the second seed from the South half of the bracket in Foley’s Peyton Kopel at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Holm battled her way through four matches in the subsection, winning three of them. In her second match, she fell behind 5-2 against Moorhead’s Katryna Hansen in the third set but rallied for a 7-6 (5) win to finish off that match.
“In the semifinal round, she faced the first seed from Bemidji,” Ronning said. “It was a great match and Brianna kept finding ways to keep the match even and forced a third set where she started slow, falling behind 4-1. Once again, she fought hard and games were close, but she ended up losing the third set 6-2.”
That put her into a match against Fergus Falls’ Ellie Colbeck that she won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.
“Brianna played her best tennis of the season without a doubt,” Ronning said. “She raised her level of play and competed hard and played smart even as the competition got tougher.”
Holm will now have to match that play as things turn to the section tournament and she gets ready to face Kopel for a second time this fall.
“Peyton defeated Brianna earlier this season, so it will be a great matchup,” Ronning said.