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B.E. Area team, FHS’ Nemmers, Bucs’ doubles set for state tennis meet

STATE-BOUND NETTERS — Members of the Blue Earth Area Bucs girls tennis team opening the Class A state team quarterfinals at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis include, front row (l-r): Addison Armstrong, Kylie Rosenau, Macie Stevermer, Sydney Blagg, Olivia Dutton and Allie Lopez. Back row: Head coach Konny Wolff, Te’a Armstrong, Britt Howard, McKenna Dutton, Lyndsey Borris, Cali Beyer, Arika Howard, Marissa Benz and assistant coach Karleigh Wolff. (Photo by Greg Abel)

BLUE EARTH — For the second time in three years, the Blue Earth Area Bucs girls tennis team is headed to the Class A state tournament.

Blue Earth Area and St. James Area have traded off the past four years at the Section 3A tennis championship. Blue Earth Area head coach Konny Wolff said after losing to the Saints 4-3 in the 2018 championship, the Bucs made a goal to get back to the state tournament.

“This year, our expectation was to get back there, win the section and go back to state,” Wolff said. “At the beginning of the season the girls made the saying, ‘One team, one dream,’ and that dream was to get to the state tournament.

“They’ve really stayed focused all through the year and they were able to accomplish that goal.”

Wolff’s team was able to reach their goal by posting a 17-1 overall dual-meet record, ending with a 5-2 win over the Saints in the Section 3A Meet’s championship dual meet at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Now Class A No. 6-ranked Blue Earth Area will face its toughest competition yet in Section 1A champion and No. 2-ranked Rochester Lourdes.

Lourdes earned its way to its 24th consecutive state tournament appearance by sweeping through the Section 1 tournament with 7-0 wins over Winona Cotter and Stewartville after receiving a first-round bye.

Wolff said Lourdes will be a tough opponent, but big moments can be unpredictable.

“Unfortunately we’ll be playing Rochester Lourdes,” Wolff said with a laugh. “It’s hard to compare (our team to theirs) because we don’t play any common opponents, but we know it will be a tough match. Rochester plays a lot of big schools and our records are pretty similar. They’ve been in the state tournament a lot.

“I know the girls have heard all about them, but I just keep telling them that at the end of the season, anything is possible. We’ve just got to go out there and play our best, play our hardest and anything can happen.”

Blue Earth Area and Lourdes will play in the second match of the state quarterfinals at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.

Section 5 champion New London-Spicer will face Section 7 champion Pequot Lakes at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Section 4 champion The Blake School takes on Section 8’s Thief River Falls at noon followed by Section 2 champion Litchfield playing Section 6 champion Minnewaska at 2 p.m. Tuesday before consolations rounds start at 4 p.m. the same day.

This will be Blue Earth Area’s 21st appearance in the state tournament’s 45-year history. The Bucs have finished in the top four in the tournament nine times, and finished top three five consecutive years from 1984-88. The Bucs finished as runners-up in 1981, 1984 and 1988, then won the state championship in 1985.

Many of the Bucs’ current players, Te’a Armstrong, Macie Stevermer, Arika Howard, McKenna Dutton, Britt Howard, Sydney Blagg and Cali Beyer, were members of the Bucs’ 2017 state team.

Wolff said the 2017 experience helped the girls set a goal for the upcoming tournament.

“We have a lot of junior girls who were with us then,” Wolff said. “We lost both rounds so I think it’s a goal to at least perform better than we did that year.”

On Thursday, three area players will face tough competition in the Class A state individual tournament back at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.

Te’a Armstrong will compete in her third consecutive individual tournament when she teams with Arika Howard to face Emma Borowicz and Catherine Tiedemann of Crookston. Borowicz and Tiedemann finished as runners-up in the Section 8 doubles tournament.

Fairmont sophomore Claire Nemmers makes her individual state debut by facing Rochester Lourdes’ Class A No. 2-ranked Clare Palen in the singles individual tournament.

Nemmers becomes the first Cardinal tennis player to qualify for state competition since 2013. Allison Moeller netted a Class A individual singles bid that season, while Aubrey Green and Missy Viesselman merited a spot in the doubles state meet.

Wolff said though Armstrong and Howard haven’t played doubles together much, they have a chance to make a good showing.

“Te’a went last year as a singles player (and in 2017 as a doubles partner with Julia Hanson), and both she and Arika played singles all year,” Wolff said. “They proved by winning the section that they can adjust to playing doubles. One thing about those two is they will fight and give it their all no matter what, hopefully as section champs they will get a pretty good draw.”

Before Armstrong and Howard take on the individual doubles tournament on Thursday, they will try to continue their success as singles players to help BEA in its opening matchup with Lourdes on Tuesday.

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