Unlike the last two years, only three Staples-Motley Cardinals have advanced to the Class A state tournament Thursday and Friday at the Nicollet Tennis Club in Minneapolis.
The Cardinals' team was looking to return to state for the third year in a row, but was ousted by the Crookston Pirates in the Section 8, Class 1A finals. One doubles team and freshman Jacque Peterson continue the tradition of Cardinals at state.
Peterson, who played No. 2 singles, breezed through the South Subsection 8, Class 1A tournament, beating teammate Laura Warn in the championship round. At the section meet, Peterson finished second behind Crookston's Beth Meier.
"She's a great athlete and very talented," said S-M coach Kevin Coughlin. "She has a lot of tools. She's very quick and she's got a certain determination that's definitely a strength.
"I'm hoping this experience will help with her maturity level. She's still developing that and her poise and composure can be a weakness, at the same time her skill offsets that."
Peterson's first match is against Ashley Wink of Minnewaska Area 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
"She played her and beat her in three sets this year," said Coughlin. "Her opponent is a scrappy, good athlete."
Peterson's teammates Emily Waldahl and Rose Milless also advanced to the state tournament, but they had little trouble as they trounced the competition. Unlike many doubles teams, Waldahl, a senior, and Milless, a junior, have played together all year.
The duo begins its march to the championship round at 10:30 a.m. Thursday against Brooke Baldry and Jessie Rasmusson of Yellow Medicine East.
At the section tournament, Waldahl-Milless won the tournament by beating Megan Luther and Abbie McMorrow of Park Rapids.
"They've struggled here and there during the season, but they're really coming into their game," said Coughlin. "They can play three different kinds of doubles. They're very versatile.
"I've seen some real focused and dominating tennis from these two lately."
The Pierz Pioneers will be represented for the first time in school history. Sheena Loidolt and Shiela Stegora earned their trip by finishing second in the Section 7, Class 1A tournament Oct. 16.
The Pierz duo drew Sheely Bebier and Andrea Eilerton of United South Central. They'll play at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
"I don't know that much about them," said Pierz coach Karla Jensen. "I heard from other coaches that it's a pretty good draw.
"I think if we can get past that first round we'll be good because we've played against the next group and beat them before. It's going to be tight, but getting past the first round will be the key."
Also coming out of Section 7, Class 1A is Ashley Meschke of Pequot Lakes. The junior is making her second trip to state.
"She was very nervous last year," said Pequot coach Mindi Brill. "I hope that having had that experience, the nerves won't be a factor."
Meschke's first-round opponent is freshman Natalie Newman of Blake.
"She's got a tough draw," said Brill. "Newman is ranked No. 3 in the state.
"It's going to be a tough match. I hope Ashley's experience can help her. I think she'll have her work cut out for her. But, if she's at the top of her game, she should do well."
Meschke advanced to state by beating Laura Baron of Hermantown in the true second-place match. Meschke has a 30-2 record, the best in Pequot history.
If both Meschke and Peterson win their first-round matches, they will meet in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
Loidolt-Stegora and Waldahl-Milless could meet in the semifinals at 9 a.m. Friday if both teams advance through the brackets.
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