Thirteen years had passed since the Brainerd Warriors qualified a singles player for the Section 8, Class 2A tennis tournament.
Sophomore Kayla Huether ended the drought last week by finishing fourth in the subsection in what could be the first of many section, and possibly state, appearances.
Huether won her first two subsection matches, then struggled with an illness and lost her third match. The illness forced Huether to default her fourth match.
"I did better than I thought I was going to do because I was sick," Huether said. "If I wouldn't have been sick I wouldn't have been surprised (to advance)."
Huether beat Kassi Sparby of Thief River Falls 6-4, 6-1 in the opening round and Lexi Moon of Fergus Falls 6-0, 6-1 in her second match.
In the semifinals she was defeated 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 by Bemidji's Nicole Christiansen. Bemidji's Dani Evans then won by default over Huether.
"In her mind she's going to be able to get anything you hit her."
"I went up to the net a lot, that usually works for me," Huether said of her subsection victories. "I would say my serves were my main strength."
Warriors coach Marnie Whalen said Huether played two solid matches. In her third match she won the first three games then lost two sets in a row.
"I think she lost some steam," Whalen said. "She wasn't herself. I talked to her on the changeover and she said she didn't feel good. That's when I thought maybe we should default that match. It's a credit to Kayla that she lost in three sets. To her credit she was going to finish against (Christiansen)."
Huether lost to St. Cloud Tech's Aaryn Anderson 6-0, 6-1 in the section tournament Wednesday, ending her season with a 15-7record.
"Kayla had an outstanding season," Whalen said. "She's fun to watch as a competitor. She's so intense in her matches. She's going to go for any ball. In her mind she's going to be able to get anything you hit her.
"Her intensity is paying off. Her focus is great. She's still at a point that she needs more top spin, more slice, more command of her shots, but again she's only a sophomore."
Huether played No. 1 singles her entire freshman season as well as this fall.
"Last year helped me know how high the level is in singles, so I was ready for it this year," Huether said. "It doesn't matter how old you are or what level you're at, I just play my hardest."
Whalen said Huether has earned the No. 1 position the last two years.
"That's pretty amazing, to come in as a freshman and jump into the No. 1 singles spot," Whalen said. "From junior high to varsity is a big jump.
"Last year she struggled a little bit. It was a big change. She's more mature and poised on the court now. Other than her illness I've never seen her in such great physical condition."
Other notable efforts:
James Strand, football, rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown against Willmar.
Jessica Reese, swimming, won one event and was on a first-place relay in the True Team meet.
Paige Olson, volleyball, had 16 kills and 17 digs against Apollo.
Jenny Boran and Ronia Gramer, swimming, each won two events against Rocori.
David Beilke, football, had 15 tackles, an interception, forced a fumble, had three pass rushes and knocked down a pass against Willmar.
Riley Cullinane, football, rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown against Sartell.
John Haberman, football, passed for 101 yards and rushed for two TDs against Sartell.
Mike Bialka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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