Though Mother Nature served up another day of irksome weather, play in the 2018 Girls State Tennis Tournament forged ahead, nonetheless, on Thursday blending a mix of indoor and outdoor play to offset weather's intrusion.
Greeted by a temperatures in the mid-30s accompanied by rain in the morning, championship doubles play moved indoors to The Tennis Center of the Black Hills and Arrowhead Arrowhead Country Club before clearing skies in the afternoon allowed consolation singles play to return to the Sioux Park and Parkview venues in Rapid City.
“Our goal is not to eliminate any matches in the tournament, and we are fortunate to have indoor facilities that can accommodate us on a quick basis, and the coaches have been great as has the support staff,” SDHSAA Executive Director, Jo Auch, said.
The change in venues didn’t deter defending champion Sioux Falls Lincoln or perennial contenders Sioux Falls O’Gorman and Rapid City Stevens, tied atop the team leader board with 300 points each. Those tams advanced all three doubles teams to Friday’s quarterfinal round, and remained unbeaten in the tournament as the three schools advanced players in the six singles flights in Wednesday’s opening day of play.
Preliminaries aside the tournament starts for real with Friday quarterfinal play, and in addition to the top three, a number of other teams remain in hunt for a state title particularly ESD champion Watertown (268), which advanced all six singles players and two doubles teams to the quarterfinals.
And while Brandon Valley (257) and St. Thomas More (232) likely need superior play and a little help from their friends to reach the top step of the championship podium come Saturday, the Lynx have four singles players and all three doubles teams remaining in championship rounds while while STM has four singles and two doubles teams vying for state titles.
Rapid City Stevens wins in doubles play on Thursday included a triumph in flight one by the duo of Peyton Forney and Ashley Lundstrom (4th seeds, 26-5), 10-3 winners over Taylor Olson and Katelyn Nesheim of Sioux Falls Washington.
“We came out really strong (an early break and 3-0 advantage), and then kind of backed up a little bit before getting ourselves back in gear again,” Lundstrom said. “We came back with a super strong mindset and just tried to play our game. Our team is doing great so far so, too, so I’m happy we were able to contribute.”
Raiders Katie Conrad and Abbey Dehler (5th seeds, 25-7) took a similar route in advancing to the quarters via a 10-2 win in flight two doubles overcoming a slow start by with more spirited play.
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“We lost a couple games near the beginning and then realized that we need to be more aggressive and play with more energy,” Conrad, the top-seed in No. 3 singles, said.
“We always do that for some reason, though fortunately it usually ends up pretty well for us,” Dehler added. Seeded sixth in flight four singles, Dehler (20-7) will face St. Thomas More’s Ali Scott (3rd seed, 19-5) in today's quarterfinal action, the fourth meeting between the Rapid City pair this season. Scott holds a 2-1 advantage (all three-set affairs).
Stevens flight three duo of Julia Wiedmeier and Erica Wing (2nd seeded, 29-2) struggled early as well before riding a late surge to a 10-6 win over Danica Hubers and Cameron Harms of Sioux Falls Roosevelt.
“Everybody that was supposed to win did their job today,” Stevens coach Jason Olson said. “You have to come out and be ready to step up. The matches at state are always closer matches because people always play better, and you have to be ready to cope with nerves, and the girls did that. The top teams are all in the same boat so hopefully we will come out (Friday) when the tournament really gets serious, and be ready to go.”
St. Thomas More pairs also won two doubles matches on Thursday with the flight one doubles team of Ashleigh Scott and Rachel Schmahl (5th seeds, 16-5) defeating a Madison pair 10-7, and the flight two pair of Bridget Raymond and Ali Scott, 10-4 winners over Avery Summers and Megan Sundvold of Roosevelt in flight two.
“It was a close match. We won but it was challenging,” Schmahl said of her shared win. “We went up and down and had little patches where we struggled but overall it was good. At one time, we were up two game but we lost that but were finally able to get it together when we had to.”
As for Raymond and Scott (6th seeds, 16-7), the win continues what has been an excellent season for the 8th grade twosome--both also advanced to quarters in singles as well (Raymond in flight two, and Scott in flight three. The outcome highlighted one of the team according to Raymond.
“Ali hits really big serves and I knew if she gets her nice serves in and I play aggressively at the net, that really mixes well together,” Raymond said. “I had a number of overhead chances because they weren’t able to get the serve back.”
With questionable weather in the forecast today, the decision on whether to play outdoors (Sioux Park and Parkview) or indoors (The Tennis Center of the Black Hills and Arrowhead) will be determined on Friday morning. The schedule for both possibilities is available at the SDHSAA website at www.sdhsaa.com.