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Bemidji HS tennis: Jacks play tough, but come up short of section bid

The Bemidji boys tennis team fell one match shy of advancing to the section tournament Tuesday as the Lumberjacks lost to top-seeded Brainerd 4-3 in Brainerd.

Earlier Tuesday BHS, which was seeded sixth, stunned No. 3 Fergus Falls 4-3, reversing a 6-1 loss to the Otters earlier in the season.

"We lost five of the seven first sets against Fergus Falls and it did not look encouraging," Bemidji coach Scott Engelstad said of the match against Fergus Falls.

"But when Ben Holter won his second set at first singles and Adam Holter and Justin Byers did the same at first doubles, things got interesting."

Holter went on to win his match 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and after that victory the teams were knotted at 3-3 with only first doubles remaining.

Adam Holter and Justin Byers had dropped their first set 1-6 but squared their match with a 7-5 win in the second set.

"We had cause for hope," Engelstad said about the second-set win.

In the deciding set Fergus Falls bolted to a 5-2 lead but Bemidji stiffened from that point on. And the Lumberjacks eventually fired the final salvo in an exciting and gutty 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) victory.

"That was a great comeback," Engelstad said. "I didn't think Fergus Falls expected to lose. I know I wouldn't have if I was the third seed.

"But that's high school sports," the coach continued. "The momentum can go up and down very quickly. That's why coaches get gray hair."

The Jacks also won at second and third doubles. Kyle Fodness and Joey Wood prevailed 6-3, 6-3 at second and Levi Rickert teamed with Craig Lindseth for a 6-4, 6-1 triumph at third.

"When we lost to Fergus Falls 6-1 during the regular season we stacked our singles lineup," Engelstad said. "Obviously, that didn't work so Tuesday we wanted to be strong in the doubles. Our plan was to sweep the doubles and win at first singles. And that's what happened."

The other singles matches saw Ben Kloha fall 6-1, 6-0 at second, Hayden Byers drop a 6-1, 6-1 decision at third and Alec Hess lose 6-4, 6-2 at fourth.

Against Brainerd the outcome came down to third doubles where Rickert and Lindseth lost a hard-fought 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) decision to Dylan Wheeler and Reno Fussy.

"If we could have pushed to a third set in that match things would have gotten interesting," Engelstad said.

"In spite of losing to Brainerd the kids battled well and we had a very good day. I challenged them to do their best and they did just that. I'm proud of them."

BHS won at first singles behind Ben Holter and at fourth singles where Hess stopped Trent Anderson 2-6, 6-4, (7-4).

The Jacks also were victorious at second doubles as Fodness and Wood prevailed 6-3, 7-5.

Bemidji ended its year 5-10. The individual portion of the section meet will be Thursday at Brainerd. Representing the Jacks in singles will be Rickert and Wood.

In doubles play Fodness and Justin Byers will form a team and play third-seeded Tyler Bates and Miles Bates of Tech.

Earning the second doubles seed were Ben and Adam Holter.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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