Even though the Park Rapids women’s tennis team fell short of their goal of producing a winning record in doubles competitions, head coach Brianne Morris was pleased with the progress her players were making.
The Panthers finished the season 9-13 in head-to-head and were awarded the No. 3 seed for the Section 8A tournament, losing in the semifinals. Park Rapids achieved its other main goal by qualifying players for the Class A State Tournament. ‘State.
“I knew this season was going to be a learning season for us,” said Morris, who was named Section 8A coach of the year. “We lost four girls last year who had a lot of problems. We knew this year we would put girls in positions they’ve never played and we couldn’t be more proud of how they did it.
In the season opener, the Panthers finished seventh out of eight teams at the Park Rapids Invitational with 7 points as the Minnewaska area took first place with 18 points. Park Rapids went on to win three of its first four doubleheaders with a 7-0 win over Morris Area, a 4-3 loss to Fergus Falls and 7-0 wins over Yellow Medicine East and Sauk Center.
A four-game losing streak followed as the Panthers were defeated by Pequot Lakes (6-1) in the Mid-State Conference opener, Crookston (5-2) in a Division game, and Detroit Lakes (5-2) and Crosby-Ironton (4-3) in conference play. After a 4-3 conference win over Wadena-Deer Creek, Park Rapids enjoyed another four-game losing streak with losses to Thief River Falls (6-1), Bemidji (6-1), Perham/New York Mills (6-1) and Bemidji (5-2).
A 4-2 Division win over Parkers Prairie was followed by a 5-2 loss to East Grand Forks, a 6-1 Division win over Roseau, a 5-2 loss to Crookston and a a 6-1 win over Roseau. Park Rapids ended the conference schedule with a 5-2 loss to Staples-Motley before ending the regular season with a 6-1 win over Parkers Prairie in a division game.
The Panthers beat No. 6 Parkers Prairie 5-2 in the quarterfinals before being eliminated with a 6-1 loss to No. 2 Crookston in the semis. 1 Staples-Motley edged Crookston 4-3 in the section title game. Staples-Motley was ranked No. 8 and Crookston was ranked No. 9 in the state poll.
Also competing for the Panthers this season is Morgan Koppelman senior; junior Lauren Cunningham; sophomores Nora Bolton, Kate Dravis, Ella Ehler, Destiny Haddy, Shailyn Hayes, Emmy Goochey, Abby Runyan and Rachel Ulvin; and freshman Sophia Gauthier.
Clark and Macy Goochey posted a 17-4 record in doubles No. 1 with Clark going 1-0 in singles No. 1, 1-0 in singles No. 2, 18-4 in doubles No. 1 and 3-3 during the Section and State tournaments for an overall record of 23-7 while Macy Goochey went 1-0 to No. 2 in singles, 18-4 to No. 1 in doubles, 1-0 to No. 2 in doubles and 3-3 in the playoffs for an overall record of 23-7.
Koppelman went 13-10 in singles No. 1 and 1-1 in doubles No. 1 while going 2-2 in the sectional tournament for a 16-13 overall record. Koppelman narrowly missed out on qualifying for state after losing a true second singles match at the sectional tournament.
Hayes held second place in singles, going 6-15 at that position while adding a 1-0 record at No. 3 singles, a 2-0 record at No. 1 doubles and a 1-0 record. -1 in singles in the section. tournament for an overall score of 10-16.
Emmy Goochey and Runyan returned to the starting lineup at No. 2 doubles, posting a 10-12 record as partners after losing a first-round doubles match in the sectional encounter. Emmy Goochey had an overall record of 12-13 while Runyan posted an overall record of 11-14.
Ehler clinched third place in singles, going 10-12 at that position, while finishing with an overall record of 12-13 after posting a 1-0 record in singles No. 2 and a record of 1 -1 in doubles No. 2.
Dravis and Ulvin played No. 3 doubles most of the season, going 4-10 as partners. Dravis was also 4-3 in singles No. 4 and went 6-12 in doubles for a 10-15 record while Ulvin went 1-0 in singles No. 4 and 6-12 in doubles No. ° 3 for a 7- 12 points overall.
Bolton posted a 7-12 overall record, including a 2-0 record in No. 3 singles, a 2-8 record in No. 4 singles and a 3-4 record in No. 3 doubles.
Cunningham (0-4 in singles n° 4 and 0-1 in doubles n° 3), Haddy (0-2 in singles n° 4 and 0-2 in doubles n° 3) and Gauthier (0-1 in n° 4 in singles and 0-1 to No. 3 in doubles).
Clark, Macy Goochey and Koppelman received all-conference honors and shared team MVP honors while Hayes was a Mid-State honorable mention player. Other team awards went to Koppelman (Most Dedicated), Macy Goochey and Clark (Team Spirit), Bolton (Most Improved) and Ehler (Rookie of the Year). Koppelman also received All-State Academic Honors as the Panthers received a Silver Academic Award for having a team GPA between 3.50 and 3.74.
“We were so happy to see the girls grow and improve throughout the year,” Morris said. “Many have gone from having no college experience to playing college every time they meet. They’ve played amazing all year and improved with every game. It was so fun to watch them step out onto the pitch and give 110% in every game, even though they knew they would face tougher competition with more experience.
Next season, the Panthers will again have to replace three key players in singles and doubles. However, Morris is looking forward to seeing another season of growth from his team.
“The three seniors were such great players, great leaders and even better people. They’ve been in college for 4-5 years and it’s hard to replace that experience and leadership. What they brought to the field each time cannot be replaced, but we know that they also taught the younger girls determination, competitiveness, how to be a good teammate and how to play with good sportsmanship. They will be missed,” Morris said. “We are excited to see what happens next year. Most teams in our section and conference have a ton of juniors, so we’ll continue to learn and grow. We also know that our girls are excited to continue playing and will work hard in the off season to continue to improve and compete in the section and the conference.