B.E. Area tennis repeats as Section 3A team champion

BODY ENGLISH — Blue Earth Area third singles player Arika Howard uses a little body English as she watches her drop shot float over the net during Tuesday’s Section 3A Team girls tennis championship meet against St. James Area in St. James. Howard went on to net the meet-clinching point for the Bucs. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

ST. JAMES — A reversal of fortune.

The Blue Earth Area Bucs avenged their sole loss of the pandemic-modified girls tennis season to rival St. James Area by netting a 5-2 victory over the Saints during Tuesday’s Section 3A Team championship meet in St. James.

Ironically, Blue Earth Area defeated St. James Area by the same score in the 2019 sectional finals back on Oct. 3 to qualify for the Class A state team competition.

Unfortunately for the back-to-back Section 3 champion Bucs, the Minnesota State High School League opted not to hold a state-level tournament this fall due to COVID-19 concerns, therefore, ending their season with a 14-1 record.

The Saints closed out their campaign with a 13-1 mark. St. James Area squeezed by Blue Earth Area, 4-3, to capture the outright Big South Conference crown this year on Oct. 1 at Hal Schroeder Courts in Blue Earth.

“We accomplished our ultimate goal this season and that was to successfully defend our sectional title,” said Bucs head coach Konny Wolff. “Unfortunately for this talented group of seniors, they won’t get to play in what would be their third state meet.”

The smallest sliver of a silver lining for the abrupt season’s end for BEA’s six standout seniors — Te’a Armstrong, Arika Howard, McKenna Dutton, Lyndsey Borris, Britt Howard and Cali Beyer?

“No more Konny killers,” Borris said in reference to Wolff’s conditioning drills that consist of running every line on three courts at the Schroeder complex in Blue Earth.

“But did those (drills) pay dividends today?” Wolff asked rhetorically. “I knew if we went to three sets during the last two matches remaining on the court, we’d definitely win one, if not both, due to our players’ endurance.”

Arika Howard and Te’a Armstrong — both whom netted more than 100 career wins — did as Wolff predicted, delivering the meet-clinching and fifth team tallies, respectively, for the Bucs.

The first doubles combination of McKenna Dutton and Kylie Rosenau staked BEA to its first lead of the sectional showdown by delivering a straight-set victory. Dutton and Rosenau hammered out a 6-2, 6-3 winning decision over Gabby Trapero and Sailor Mohlenbrock to inch the Bucs to a 3-2 edge on the ledger.

Arika Howard displayed her improved stamina by bouncing back from a 6-4 opening-set loss to Mya Hanson at third singles to garner the second segment, 6-3. Howard and Hanson moved to a lighted court at the eight-court facility as darkness neared, and the hard-hitting Buc senior flipped the switch on a 6-0 third-set win to lock up the sectional crown.

“I have never done that before in our two previous times of qualifying for state,” Arika Howard said in reference to netting the decisive fourth team point. “I told myself going into the third set that I was not going to lose the final match of my high school tennis career, and I didn’t.”

Te’a Armstrong also capped her stellar prep tennis career by netting a three-set slugfest with the Saints’ Ellie Becker at the No. 1 spot in the singles bracket. Becker coasted to a 6-1 first-set win before Armstrong rallied from second-set deficits of 3-2 and 5-4 to eke out a 7-5 decision. Armstrong then chipped in the Bucs’ fifth point by claiming the third set by a 6-1 decision.

Trailing 2-0 in the team score, fourth singles player Addison Armstrong — along with the third doubles team of Cali Beyer and Olivia Dutton — reeled off wins within 30 seconds of one another to even the meet.

Addison Armstrong rolled to a 6-4, 6-0 triumph over Eva Romsdahl, while Beyer and Olivia Dutton assembled stellar serving efforts to chalk up a 6-4, 6-2 winning decision for a 2-all team score.

Allison Bluedorn and Sofia Solorzano combined court skills for a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Borris and Britt Howard at second doubles for the Saints, while No. 2 singles netter Jaelyn Haler and her potent serve coasted to a 6-0, 6-2 triumph over Marissa Benz for SJA’s second team tally.

2020 Section 3A

Team Tennis Finals

B.E. Area 5, St. James Area 2

Singles Bracket

No. 1: Te’a Armstrong (BEA) def. Ellie Becker, 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.

No. 2: Jaelyn Haler (SJA) def. Marissa Benz, 6-0, 6-2.

No. 3: Arika Howard (BEA) def. Mya Hanson, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.

No. 4: Addison Armstrong (BEA) def. Eva Romsdahl, 6-4, 6-0.

Doubles Bracket

No. 1: McKenna Dutton-Kylie Rosenau (BEA) def. Gabby Trapero-Sailor Mohlenbrock, 6-2, 6-3.

No. 2: Allison Bluedorn-Sofia Solorzano (SJA) def. Lyndsey Borris-Britt Howard, 6-1, 6-2.

No. 3: Cali Beyer-Olivia Dutton (BEA) def. Emma Anderson-Mika Wessels, 6-4, 6-2.


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