Although the result wasn't what they had hoped for the Brainerd Warriors proved they're one of state's top eight teams.
In the Class 2A state team quarterfinals Tuesday at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota, the Warriors were defeated 6-1 by fourth-ranked Elk River. Brainerd's dual-meet season ended later Tuesday in the consolation semifinals with a narrow 4-3 loss to Rosemount.
Brainerd finished 14-3-0 in the program's first trip to state.
"The girls have nothing to hang their heads about," Warriors coach Ellen Fussy said. "They played with the best of the best. It was fun they got to see what it's like down here. I hope it makes them hungry to make another trip fairly soon."
Brainerd's Zoe Houle (right) hugged Warriors coach Ellen Fussy following the No. 1 doubles match. Houle and partner Kayla Kraemer (left) won 6-3, 7-6 (8-6). Bill Johnson
Warriors No. 1 singles player Taylor Headlee said Brainerd had "nothing to lose" at state.
"We went out there and played our tennis," she added, "but there's some very good competition here. We left it out there. We had a lot of fun.
"It was a very good experience. I'm really glad we ended it this way, my last year on the team we went to state."
Against Rosemount, Mikinzee Salo won at No. 2 singles and Mackayla Headlee won at No. 4. Zoe Houle and Kayla Kraemer won at No. 1 doubles, their second victory of the day.
"We were pretty tired but we won the first set 6-3," Houle said. "We were down 1-4 in the second, and we just got energized. We didn't go to the state tournament to play tired. We picked it up, and ended up winning in a tiebreaker. It was good tennis."
Fussy thought the Warriors could beat Rosemount since the Irish, like Brainerd, were unranked.
"We kind of looked tired," Fussy said. "I think all the excitement and energy kind of zapped us a little bit, but our No. 1 doubles came to play.
Brainerd's Taylor Headlee backhanded a return to Elk River's Katie Jesperson in their No. 1 singles match Tuesday. Jesperson won 6-0, 6-0. Bill Johnson
"They were down 1-4 in the second but they came back and pretty soon it was 4-4. Then they led 5-4, then it was 5-5, then we had it 6-5. They dropped the next game 6-6, and it went to a tiebreaker and they won the tiebreaker."
Salo triumphed 6-1, 7-5.
"Mikinzee came out strong," Fussy said. "She was hitting the lines, playing really well. Maybe the Rosemount girl woke up a little bit. That's why it was 7-5 in the second."
Mackayla Headlee won 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).
"Mackayla battled," Fussy said. "I'm so proud of her. She played the best tennis I've seen her play all year. Her backhand was really strong, it was right on. She was low to the ball, her footwork was better than it's been all year."
In the quarterfinals, the Warriors' only point was garnered by Houle and Kraemer.
"We played the best we've played so far this year," Houle said. "We were really aggressive. We were just really pumped and energized, and it worked out very well. We had a lot of fun. It was a really good experience."
Fussy said Houle and Kraemer "came out of the chute fast and quick."
Warriors lose two
The key: Brainerd was defeated 6-1 by Elk River and 4-3 by Rosemount.
Overall: Brd finishes team season 14-3-0.
"They played to their opponents' weakness and to their strengths," Fussy added. "Zoe did some nice serving, Kayla closed in at the net. By the time they were playing the (dual meet) had been determined, but they still battled."
Elk River, playing in its fourth straight state tournament, improved to 26-1 before meeting eighth-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall in the semifinals.
"We knew we had to come out and play sharp and play our best match of the year," Fussy said. "Elk River is definitely the best team we've seen so far.
"We're not disappointed, we're happy to be down here. We got in there and battled, Elk River's just a fine team. Their No. 2 singles player (Cassandra Brown) probably, on any other team, would be No. 1. That's how strong their No. 1 singles player (Katie Jesperson) is."
• Brainerd was named a Class 2A Gold academic winner (3.75-4.0 grade-point average as a team).
Elk River 6, Brainerd 1
No. 1: Katie Jesperson (ER) def. Taylor Headlee 6-0, 6-0
No. 2: Cassandra Brown (ER) def. Mikinzee Salo 6-0, 6-1
No. 3: Michaela Schulz (ER) def. Brianna Rademacher 6-0, 6-0
No. 4: Leah Koehler (ER) def. Mackayla Headlee 6-1, 6-0.
No. 1: Zoe Houle-Kayla Kraemer (Brd) def. Grace Zachman-Camille Kraljic 6-3, 7-6 (8-6)
No. 2: McKaila Granning-Catherine O'Connell (ER) def. Samantha Kletscher-Courtney Tusler 6-2, 6-1
No. 3: Taylor Lussier-Flesher and Rachel Janc (ER) def. Kathryn Chandler-Kathryn Southard 2-6, 6-1 (10-5)
Rosemount 4, Brainerd 3
No. 1: Virginia Norder (R) def. Taylor Headlee 6-2, 6-1
No. 2: Mikinzee Salo (Brd) def. Sara Feeser 6-1, 7-5
No. 3: Alison Baker (R) def. Brianna Rademacher 6-3, 6-1.
No. 4: Mackayla Headlee (Brd) def. Layna Mestad 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).
No. 1: Zoe Houle-Kayla Kraemer (Brd) def. Makayla Newberry-Kayla Brewitz 6-3, 7-6 (8-6)
No. 2: Kayla Ross-Savannah Bray (R) def. Samantha Kletscher-Courtney Tusler 6-2, 6-0
No. 3: Shelby Gamache-Hailey Johnson (R) def. Kathryn Chandler-Kathryn Southard 7-6 (7-0), 6-4
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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