Thursday night the Fergus Falls girls tennis team traveled to Sartell for a Central Lakes Conference dual. The Otters came out on top 4-3 in a very highly contested match.
“Tonight's match-up was just what our girls needed,” commented Fergus Falls Head Coach Jamie Lill. “All seven varsity matches were very competitive. The atmosphere was intense and positive, and the team match played out in very dramatic fashion. We made a line-up change to mix things up a bit tonight, swapping Ava Weber and Renee Scheving around. Ava jumped into first doubles with Elissa Lee, while Renee Scheving took her turn on the singles side of things.”
All seven matches went out simultaneously. The first match that went to completion was the Otters third doubles duo of Mia Marsh and Leila Nasri. This duo was on serve the entire first set until Leila and Mia got a break late in the set to put themselves on the scoreboard first. “These youngsters really settled in and played smart in the second set, dropping only one game and giving the Otters the 1-0 team lead,” reported Lill.
The next match to finish up was the new first doubles team of Elissa Lee and Ava Weber. This was the first time this duo had played together, and Ava's first doubles match of the season. “They looked good, especially for their first time out atop the doubles ladder,” said Lill. They dropped the match in straight sets, but were definitely in the match throughout both sets. The team score was 1-1.
The next match to finish up was Renee Scheving at third singles. Renee had an all-out battle on her hands in the first set. She ended up getting her serve broken at the end of the set, giving her opponent a 7-5 lead. Renee was unable to overcome the tough serving and balanced groundstroke attack of her opponent, and dropped the second set 6-2. “Even in the loss, this was a great match for Renee,” noted Lill. “She did a nice job of moving her opponent around and utilizing her drop shots in the breezy conditions.” With this loss, the Otters were trailing 1-2.
Kailyn Richey's match was the next to be completed. Lill commented on the match saying, “Kailyn just played smart tennis. She knows her strengths and how to put herself in position to utilize those strengths. Both of Kailyn's sets were tight, with her pulling away late and finishing off each set 6-3.” The team match was now tied at 2 apiece.
Elizabeth Houge's fourth singles match was the next match to finish. Elizabeth was also in a very tight battle. She got out to an early lead, but was broken back at the end of both sets, falling 6-4, 6-4. “Elizabeth showed great patience in her match, but the shot-making of her opponent is what gave her the slight edge tonight,” observed Lill. The Otters were down 3-2 at this point.
With two matches still on court, the Otters needed to win them both to get the team win. Their second doubles team of Olivia Kaliher and Carlie Meis was the next match to conclude. Olivia and Carlie dug themselves a hole to start the match, finding themselves down 1-4. “The girls knew that improved consistency was all they needed to get themselves back into the match, and they did just that,” said Lill. “They came back from 1-4 to take the first set 7-6 in a tie-break. This was a huge confidence boost for these girls. They were determined to keep their level of play high and not dip after solidifying the first set. They did just that. They kept their foot on the gas and cruised in the second set 6-2. This was a huge win for these girls. Being new to tennis, they are just weeks into their first tennis season, and have made impressive strides thus far. It will be exciting to see how much further they progress this year.” This win tied up the team match at 3-3.
As if it were scripted, the final and deciding match came down to Ellie Colbeck at first singles. Ellie had cruised 6-1 in the first set before hitting a hiccup in the second. Ellie's level of play dipped a bit as her opponent really upped her game. Kiley Rodamel of Sartell showcased her flat, fast-paced groundies and serves and it really gave Ellie a hard time. Rodamel took the second set 6-2. “So, the deciding match for our team was coming down to a third and final set,” recalled Lill. “The set started out trading games and holding serve for both players. Ellie snuck in a break of serve towards the end of the set, earning herself a 5-3 lead. This is where the match got really interesting. Ellie found herself up 5-3, 40-love, with three match points to win both her match and solidify the team win for the Otters. However, Rodamel was not done yet. She rattled off five straight points to come back and win that game, making the score 5-4. In the next changeover, Rodamel snuck a break of serve to tie it up at 5 before she held serve to take a 6-5 lead. This is where mental toughness really came into play. In a span of about 10 minutes, Ellie went from triple match point up at 5-3 to finding herself down 6-5 and serving to stay in the match. Ellie demonstrated why she is a leader for our team. With the match on her racket, Ellie served up a great game to tie it up and force a third set tie-breaker. Both players were playing smart tennis and taking their chances when they were presented, not forcing anything. Ellie started strong in the tie-break, taking a 3-0 lead. Rodamel took the next three points to tie it right back up. In the end, Ellie held off her opponent 7-4 in the third set tie-break to get the victory. It was a great match for Ellie to come out on top. The match had a bit of everything, but what stuck out most to me was how Ellie handled the mental aspect of the match. Victory was so close earlier in the set and she was not able to close it out, but she did not let that effect her outcome tonight, and that was very impressive.”
Lill concluded, “Our coaching staff could not have been more proud tonight. It was a great effort from top to bottom.”
The Otters also saw some great JV doubles wins from Mackenzie Krava/Elizabeth Wickstrom, Takaira Wynn Sheldon/Brooke Backen, Jasmine Haugse/Maddison Weinrich, Isabella Abrahams/Amiya Brame, Keziah Hartwell/Hannah Anderson.
The Otters are looking forward to a busy home schedule next week with Parents/Senior night on Monday against Perham, Willmar on Tuesday, and Alexandria on Thursday.