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Pat Miller: This week at Bemidji High School - tennis team readies for section play

The regular season for the Bemidji girls tennis team began six weeks ago when the Lumberjacks took the championship at the Pine City Invitational and it will close today when BHS travels to Grand Forks to take on Crookston.

Heading into today’s contest the Jacks have won 13 of 14 dual meets and, probably, have secured the top spot for the North Sub-Section 8-2A team tournament which begins Friday in Grand Forks.

The lone dual blemish came Sept. 5 when Bemidji dropped a 5-2 decision to Eveleth-Gilbert. Since that loss BHS has constructed a nine-match winning streak and that run should reach double figures today against Crookston.

“We’ve had a great regular season but now everyone starts over again in section play,” BHS coach Mark Fodness said.

The sub-section coaches will determine the tournament seeds today but, after defeating every sub-section team they faced this fall, the Lumberjacks appear to be a shoe-in for the No. 1 spot.

Thief River Falls is the probable No. 2 seed and Brainerd should be No. 3. Battling for the other spots are Alexandria, Moorhead, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes and Little Falls.

The tournament will be hosted by the Grand Forks Tennis Center, an indoor facility that is sufficiently large to accommodate the schedule.

If the Jacks do receive the top spot they will open against the No. 8 seed. That match is scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday. A win in the opener would advance BHS to a 4:30 p.m. semifinal and if they survive Friday’s action the Lumberjacks will head to Sartell Oct. 11 for the section semifinals.

The Grand Forks Tennis Center will be a busy place this weekend as the sub-section athletes will return to the facility on Saturday for the start of the individual tournament. Those survivors will advance to the section quarterfinals Oct. 12 in Sartell.

“The advantage of being the top seed is that you should have the best chance to make it to the semifinals and final,” Fodness said. “We’ll play twice this weekend against teams we should defeat. However, those teams will be playing for the upset and we have to come in with intensity and focus to make sure we move on,” the coach continued.

Bemidji’s lineup is expected to have Claudia Bellew, Alexis Konecne, Abbie Kelm and Sarah McNallan at singles. The probable doubles alignment will feature Annika Johnson and Olivia Dickenson at first doubles, Kenzie Schultz and Jenna Lee at second plus Nicolette Roy and Kayla Snell at third.

“We’ll approach each match with the same goal — to play one point at a time to the best of our ability,” Fodness said. “When our entire lineup has used that approach this year we’ve played our very best.

“It’s always a challenge to move through the section tournament but I know the team is looking forward to the opportunity. We have eight seniors on our tournament roster and most of them have experience in the section tournament setting.”

Heavyweight match-up

There are certain high school football games each season that the ardent fans circle as “must-see” contests and one of them will be played 2 p.m. Saturday when Bemidji attempts to spoil Brainerd’s homecoming.

Both programs are accustomed to success and the 20-13 campaign has only added to the legacies. The Lumberjacks are 5-0 and are averaging 41.4 points per game on offense. Brainerd is 5-0 and has allowed an average of only nine points per contest.

In last week’s Associated Press Class 5A poll Brainerd was rated No. 3 and the Lumberjacks were No. 4. It is likely that they both will move ahead a spot this week as Andover, which was ranked No. 2, lost on Friday and should slip out of the top-five.

The QRF ratings, which calculate a team’s success based on record and the record of its opponents, give Brainerd an edge. The Warriors are rated No. 2 among the Class 5A teams with a QRF of 107.9. BHS is 11th in the QRF with a 74.8 rating.

The Warriors have had a tougher schedule, based upon won-lost records. Brainerd’s opponents are 14-11 while Bemidji’s victims have an accumulated record of only 5-20.

But, other than defeating teams on your schedule, there isn’t much a squad can do about the record of any opponent or its QRF.

Saturday’s contest will be the final regular season road game for the Jacks. They will close the year at home against Alexandria (Oct. 11) and against Moorhead (Oct. 16).

Volleyball, soccer at home

The week’s action began Monday with the boys soccer team (5-5-3) hosting East Grand Forks and the girls squad (7-6) visiting Crookston.

Today sees the volleyball team (7-9) entertaining East Grand Forks at 7:15 p.m.

The girls soccer team will have the spotlight on Thursday as it will host Detroit Lakes at 7 p.m. at Chet Anderson Stadium. On Friday the boys soccer team will visit Moorhead and the volleyball team will travel to Grand Rapids.

In addition to the football game at Brainerd, Saturday’s schedule finds the swimmers and divers at the Richfield Invitational and the cross country teams at a meet hosted by Alexandria.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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