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B.E. Area tennis bests Luverne in Section 3A team semifinals, 6-1

STRETCHING OUT — Blue Earth Area third doubles player Cali Beyer stretches out to make a running backhanded save behind the baseline during Thursday’s Section 3A team tournament semifinal at Hal Schroeder Courts in Blue Earth. Beyer and playing partner Olivia Dutton went on to net the Bucs’ second team point during their dual meet against Luverne. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

BLUE EARTH — An equipment malfunction forced Blue Earth Area senior third singles player Arika Howard to change her strategy during Thursday’s Section 3A Team semifinal dual meet at Hal Schroeder Courts.

Howard snapped strings on her racket during warmups with Luverne’s Ainslie Robinson, and resorted to using her secondary racket, and the results were better than their previous showdown.

For Howard, that is.

Howard garnered back-to-back 6-1 set victories over Robinson to generate the initial point of the No. 2-seeded Bucs’ 6-1 playoff victory over the No. 3-seeded Cardinals in Blue Earth.

Blue Earth Area (13-1) advances to square off against outright Big South Conference champion and No. 1-seeded St. James Area (13-0) for the sectional championship at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in St. James. The Saints bested No. 5-seeded United South Central, 7-0, to gain the final round of the postseason.

“I broke the strings on my (main) racket before the match started and had to use the racket I used last year,” said Arika Howard. “I couldn’t hit as hard as I usually do, but I guess hitting softer worked better than when I won a three-setter against her (Robinson) during our cross-over match (on Sept. 29).”

Cali Beyer and Olivia Dutton then needed only two more games than Arika Howard to double Blue Earth Area’s lead on the team ledger. Holding a 4-3 lead over Liz Kelm and Brynn Thier, Beyer and Dutton each produced multiple stretched-out saves to finally net a pivotal break to win the opening set, 6-3, at third doubles.

Beyer’s flurry of forehand winners and Dutton’s sideline-to-sideline court coverage triggered a 6-1 second-set win to extend the Bucs’ margin to 2-0 on the dual.

Luverne’s second doubles team of Olivia Wieneke and Jacey Smith then rallied in both sets to outlast Blue Earth Area opponents Lyndsey Borris and Britt Howard, 7-5, 7-5. The two combinations slugged it out in a three-setter during their prior clash on Sept. 29, with Borris and Howard netting the win in the cross-over match.

The No. 1 doubles tandem of McKenna Dutton and Kylie Rosenau and No. 2 singles player Marissa Benz officially swung the next two team tallies to the Bucs to clinch the sectional meet’s outcome.

McKenna Dutton and Rosenau poached, drilled point-winning passing shots and unleashed powerful serves to net a 6-1, 6-2 win over Lauren VerSteeg and Solveig Tofteland to pocket the third team point.

Benz then used a strong service performance and stinging forehand winners to lock up the Bucs’ fourth tally by outbattling Luverne’s Elise Jarchow in a hard-hitting three-setter, 6-0, 4-6, 6-1.

The Armstrongs — fourth singles netter Addison and first singles player Te’a — added BEA’s fifth and sixth team tallies, respectively. Addison Armstrong rallied from a 3-2 first-set deficit to roll to a 6-3 victory over Mia Wenzel. Addison then outdueled Wenzel in the second set, 6-4. Te’a Armstrong, who needed three sets to defeat Roz Oye during their cross-over match on Sept. 29, lost only three games to Oye on Thursday to earn a 6-2, 6-1 decision.

“We’ve got one more (meet) to go this season, and we get a second chance at St. James (Area),” Bucs head coach Konny Wolff said in reference to the Saints’ narrow 4-3 victory over BEA in the BSC finals.

Section 3A Team

Meet Semifinals

B.E. Area 6, Luverne 1

Singles Bracket

No. 1: Te’a Armstrong (BEA) def. Roz Oye, 6-2, 6-1.

No. 2: Marissa Benz (BEA) def. Elise Jarchow, 6-0, 4-6, 6-1.

No. 3: Arika Howard (BEA) def. Ainslie Robinson, 6-1, 6-1.

No. 4: Addison Armstrong (BEA) def. Mia Wenzel, 6-3, 6-4.

Doubles Bracket

No. 1: McKenna Dutton-Kylie Rosenau (BEA) def. Lauren VerSteeg-Solveig Tofteland, 6-1, 6-2.

No. 2: Olivia Wieneke-Jacey Smith (LUV) def. Lyndsey Borris-Britt Howard, 7-5, 7-5.

No. 3: Cali Beyer-Olivia Dutton (BEA) def. Liz Kelm-Brynn Thier, 6-3, 6-1.

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