BEA netters earn spot in BSC finale

ON A ROLL — The Blue Earth Area Bucs girls tennis team, front row, from left, Tea Armstrong, Britt Howard, Carissa Engesser, Arika Howard and Sydney Blagg, and back, from left, McKenna Dutton, Cali Beyer, Julia Hanson, Macie Stevermer and Malarie Scholtes, compiled a 13-2 record on the strength of a nine-meet win streak this season. The Bucs play Luverne in the Big South Conference championship on Tuesday. (Photo by Alexis Cubit)

BLUE EARTH — “Trust the process” was a phrased that evolved as the Philadelphia 76ers’ rallying cry in response to former general manager Sam Hinkie’s team introduction speech about patience and process in 2013.

A year later, 76ers big man Joel Embiid made the phrase even more popular by tweeting it out.

The phrase has since been used by other sports teams like the Buffalo Bills, Baylor University’s football team and most recently, Cincinnati Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron, among others.

While each of the aforementioned teams are still waiting for “the process” to provide success, the Blue Earth Area Bucs girls tennis team’s process has allowed them a 13-2 record, a nine-meet win streak and a spot in the Big South Conference championship.

This is a drastic change from last season.

“Last year at this time, we were 6-9. We were young and I think just the extra year that the girls matured,” Bucs head coach Konny Wolff said.

Last season, most of the players were only in the eighth grade. At that point, trusting the process meant the team had to go through its growing pains of a below .500 season. This year, the Bucs have surpassed Wolff’s preseason expectations.

“I was hoping that we would at least be above .500,” she said, “and then after that first Glencoe tounament where we won all three matches and won that tournament, I knew that we were probably going to be a little bit better than that. But I would have never dreamt that we would be (13-2). It’s great.”

Ironically, the Bucs are still a young team. There are six freshmen, three sophomores, a junior and two seniors that regularly see playing time on the varsity squad. The current freshman class, in particular, have played a major role this year.

Since being moved to the singles bracket, freshmen Arika Howard and Tea Armstrong have posted undefeated records in dual meets. Armstrong won the fourth singles championship during the Mankato West tournament last Saturday and provided the Bucs with the winning point against St. Peter on Tuesday.

Armstrong won the first set, 6-1, but lost the second, 6-3, when Wolff came over and talked to her.

“I said, ‘Tea, you’re undefeated at singles. Your style of game is hitting it hard and you’re playing her game now,'” Wolff recalled. “Then she changed it up, started playing her game and won the third set (6-3). That was a great win for the girls.”

Armstrong echoed her coach’s sentiments, saying, “I was kind of playing timid and scared. I had to hit harder and play my game.”

One of the biggest parts of the process is team unity. Wolff makes it a point to take away phones and have the Bucs cheer on their teammates once they’re finished with their own match.

“‘When you’re at a basketball game and you get taken out of the game, you don’t go over to the bench and get on your cell phone,'” Wolff told her team. “It hasn’t been a problem and everybody gets along. It’s a fun group to work with.”

The other part is keeping a positive attitude, which starts with being mentally prepared no matter what happens during the match.

“Body language tells a lot on the court. If you go out there and look like you’re defeated, then you’re probably going to be defeated,” Wolff said. “That’s one thing with most of them is that they’re good athletes and they’re never going to give up.”

The Bucs will play Luverne in the Big South Conference championship on Tuesday before opening team section action on Thursday. Wolff sees St. James as her team’s biggest threat to a deep run in the postseason, but is confident in the Bucs’ abilities.

“(We have to) keep playing like we’re playing, keep our confidence up, play our game and don’t be scared of other teams,” Armstrong said.

No matter what the outcome, the Bucs have set the standard and, with many of the players being underclassmen, have time to have several more winning seasons. Anything is possible as long as they trust the process.