PIERZ -- It took Pierz Pioneers head coach Karla Jensen nine years but she finally achieved what she was working for.
Jensen has been the only head coach in Pioneers tennis history. For the first time, she cheered on two of her players at the state tournament this weekend.
Sheena Loidolt-Shiela Stegora became the first state tennis qualifiers in Pierz history. They did it by finishing second in the Section 7, Class 1A tournament Oct. 16.
"It's exciting," said Loidolt. "More of the public have found out that we're the first ones and people have acknowledged us more. We've been getting a lot of credit from everyone."
In the section championship match, the duo lost to Arin Carlson-Ashley Nelson of Pine City 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, putting the Pioneers into another match.
"I wasn't as nervous as I was tired," Stegora said about having to play another match. "I knew that we could come back and beat a really tough Virginia team."
In a true second-place match, Pierz withstood the tandem of Lindsay Shoden-Jane Polski of Virginia 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 to advance to state.
"We were really nervous and we were both frustrated about losing the championship match," said Loidolt. "The championship match was our third match of the day and we had beaten them before. Playing another match was exhausting."
The two played in the Class A state tournament Thursday and Friday at the Nicollet Tennis Center in Minneapolis.
They faced many obstacles to get to state. Stegora didn't start playing tennis until three weeks were left in the regular season. She was recovering from an ankle injury.
"Yes, it still hurts, but the pain is worth it," the senior said. "I was more frustrated than anything because I kept going to the doctor and they kept delaying when I could come back."
Loidolt and Stegora didn't start playing together until the subsection individual tournament.
"We moved Shiela in and we tried her out at No. 2 doubles when she came back just to see if she could hold her own," said Jensen. "Since we give the seniors the choice of who they want to play with in the individual tournament, Sheena and Shiela wanted to play together."
It didn't take the pair long to get going. They played together last year and the year before. They've both played doubles this year and have singles experience as well. The mixture of knowledge eased the transition.
"We work well together," said Loidolt, who plays softball, is in dance line and is on the student council. "We played together last year at the end of the season. We connected right away. We know how the other one plays. It's easy to adjust."
Jensen wasn't worried about her new doubles team. In fact, she was confident they would do well.
"For them, it was really quick," said Jensen. "They're pretty good at adjusting.
"They're both very competitive people. They don't ever give up and they're very verbal on the court. They're a lot alike with their play. They know the strategies of doubles and they're good net players."
Other notable performances:
Cross country -- Kim Beaman won the Subsection 5, Class 1A meet at Pierz Oct. 16 with a time of 15:39.
Tennis -- Staples-Motley's Jacque Peterson advanced to the Class A state singles tournament by finishing second in the Section 8, Class 1A tournament Oct. 17. Peterson defeated Kelly Gust of East Grand Forks and Netesse Pettit of Wadena-Deer Creek before losing to Beth Meier of Crookston in the championship match.
S-M's Emily Waldahl-Rose Milless won the Section 8, Class 1A doubles title to advance to the Class A state tournament. The S-M duo beat Megan Luther-Abbie McMorrow of Park Rapids in the championship match.
Volleyball -- Aitkin's Trista Spolarich was 6-6 serving with nine digs and 11 kills in a 3-1 loss to Barnum Oct. 15.
Meg Tabaka of Pine River-Backus was 14-of-14 serving with two aces and 10 kills in a 3-1 win over Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Oct. 16.
Pierz's Kari Block finished with 16 kills, 11 block assists, 31 set assists and 11 digs and was 21-of-25 serving with six aces in a 3-2 win over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Oct. 16.
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