BEA tennis duo gains state

WORKING IN TANDEM — Blue Earth Area’s Te’a Armstrong (back) connects on a forehand return while Bucs’ doubles teammate Julia Hanson prepares for a return during Section 3A individual tennis action on Wednesday at the Swanson Tennis Center on the Gustavus Adolphus campus in St. Peter. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

ST. PETER — Until last Friday, Blue Earth Area senior Julia Hanson and freshman Te’a Armstrong had never played tennis as a doubles team.

After combining court skills for a two-day Section 3A individual doubles record of 4-1 and a true-second victory on Wednesday, Hanson and Armstrong netted the opportunity to play together for a maximum of four more times during the Class A state individual meet Oct. 26-27 at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center.

“(Buc teammates) Arika (Howard) and Macie (Stevermer) chose to play singles in the section (individual) meet, and we knew we were going to play doubles, so why not together,” said Hanson, who competed at No. 2 singles for the majority of the regular season.

“We’re both singles players, and during our first match we had to figure out each other’s (playing) styles,” said Armstrong, who normally filled the No. 4 singles position in BEA head coach Konny Wolff’s lineup this fall. “It just took a little communicating with each other, and it worked out.”

Armstrong, Hanson and the Section 3A champion Bucs open the Class A state team meet against Section 6 champion Osakis at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center. The BEA tandem returns to the Minneapolis-based athletic facility for a 10 a.m. state doubles preliminary match on Thursday, Oct. 26.

“It’s great to qualify for state as a team, but it’s even nicer to also advance individuals,” said Wolff.

Hanson and Armstrong, who netted the No. 3 seed during sectional doubles action, outdueled Pipestone Area’s Lauren Lapthorn and Paige Ahrendt in a three-set semifinal marathon match, 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, to kick off Wednesday’s action on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus in St. Peter.

Armstrong and Hanson then squared off against top-seeded Emma Barnd and Carly Weber of United South Central for the Section 3 doubles championship and an automatic state individual bid.

Barnd and Weber, also a pair of regular-season singles players, gained the finals on the strength of a 6-1, 6-2 semifinal victory over No. 5-seeded Abby Bruegger and Katelyn Langworthy of Maple River.

Oddly, the BEA and USC tandems combined for a rare seven service breaks during Set 1 before Weber finally held serve to close out a hard-fought 7-5 victory.

All of the breaks went in the direction of Barnd and Weber during their second set with Hanson and Armstrong as the Rebels’ tandem netted a 6-0 triumph to earn the Section 3A doubles’ gold medals and an individual state berth.

Unfortunately for Hanson and Armstrong, Bruegger and Langworthy fended off Pipestone Area’s Lapthorn and Ahrendt in the third-place match, 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, to earn a true-second challenge match with the BEA duo.

This time, Hanson and Armstrong combined with Bruegger and Langworthy for seven more service breaks in their opening set before Hanson’s cross-court winner sealed a 6-4 Bucs’ win.

Hanson’s down-the-line backhand runner in Game 7 of the second set blended with Armstrong’s alley-finding winners and Game 9 serving to ice a 6-3 win and a Class A individual state bid.

In Section 3A singles action, Maple River sophomore Vanessa Barkosky outdueled St. James Area junior Renata Hernandez for the gold medal, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Barkosky reached the sectional championship match on the strength of a 6-2, 6-0 semifinal win over USC freshman Delaney Weber, while Hernandez coasted by River Valley senior Hanna Himmelman in back-to-back 6-0 semifinal sets.

Hernandez, however, will join Barkosky in the 8 a.m. Class A state singles preliminaries on Oct. 26.

Himmelman rallied to defeat Delaney Weber for third place in the sectional, 6-2, 6-1, but did not merit a true-second challenge since the singles runner-up — Hernandez — had already defeated her during the tournament.