GIRLS TENNIS: Bemidji drops tight matchup with Hibbing as doubles teams star
Excellence in doubles was an essential piece of the Bemidji High School girls tennis team’s success in 2021, as the Lumberjacks clinched their second consecutive Section 8AA championship.
BEMIDJI – Excellence in doubles was an essential piece of the Bemidji High School girls tennis team’s success in 2021, as the Lumberjacks clinched their second consecutive Section 8AA championship.
So far in 2022, it’s been more of the same for BHS – even with the departures of doubles stalwarts Paige Anderson, Chloe Hasbargen, Abby Johnson and Tatum Offerdahl.
For the second straight match, the Jacks’ new trio of doubles pairs won each of their matchups, this time providing Bemidji all three of its victories against Hibbing on Friday. Unfortunately for the Lumberjacks, Hibbing proved equally adept at singles, sweeping all four individual matchups to win the overall match 4-3.
“Tough loss,” BHS head coach Kyle Fodness said. “But in the same way, it's also August. So when we walked out for practice yesterday, and when we walked out before the match today, we talked about (how) right now is when we're least focused on wins and losses. This is the time you set up our section mentality, which is, ‘Let's get better.’”
It’s difficult to improve upon a perfect record, which is what the Jacks’ doubles teams have posted so far this season. On Friday, No. 1 pair Maddie Jensen and Darby Neis won 6-4, 6-3, while No. 2 duo Kendal Midboe and Elena Peterson joined them with a 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (8-6) victory. No. 3 group Noelle Mueller and Sam Wood breezed to a 6-1, 6-2 win, as well.
“It's pretty important,” Neis said of upholding the doubles standard. “We all do our own part and just focus on our own match.”
Neis has stepped into a leadership role as a captain for her senior season, in addition to leading by example on the No. 1 doubles court. She and Jensen anchored Bemidji (1-1) at No. 3 doubles during the section title run in 2021, but now, the two veterans are looked at to set the expectation for the rest of the doubles players.
“It's been good,” Neis said of the new experience. “It's been a little scary. It's kind of weird without the other players there, but we're all pretty close. And it's a good team so far.”
Fodness has enjoyed seeing players like Neis embrace stepping into vacated leadership spots and higher positions on the ladder early this season.
“From a teaching and coaching side, you love to see it, because it gives those people an opportunity to grow into those roles,” Fodness said. “They already have, they just weren't on those courts yet. Maddie and Darby, towards the end of the year, were really a second or first doubles team mentality-wise. They were just playing on the third court. So it's cool that they get to be recognized for that now.”
The totality of the leadership burden doesn’t fall solely upon seniors such as Neis, either. Fodness praised his older players for allowing their younger teammates to take ownership of their roles, as well.
“They've done a really good job,” Fodness said of the seniors. “In an odd way, a mark of a good student leader is allowing others to become leaders too. All of them do a really good job of empowering the other players. They don't necessarily pull them along. They lead from within and they say, ‘Hey, everybody, let's move in the same direction together.’”
The Lumberjacks will next face Crosby-Ironton and Parkers Prairie in a triangular starting at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30, in Parkers Prairie.
Hibbing 4, Bemidji 3
No. 1: Sullivan (HIB) def. Dondelinger, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3
No. 2: Furin (HIB) def. Glen, 6-0, 6-2
No. 3: Rewertz (HIB) def. Eli. Peterson, 6-1, 6-3
No. 4: Vincent (HIB) def. Nyhusmoen, 6-1, 6-1
No. 1: Neis/Jensen (BHS) def. Valeri/Rasch, 6-4, 6-3
No. 2: Midboe/Ele. Peterson (BHS) def. Jaynes/Boben, 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (8-6)
No. 3: Mueller/Wood (BHS) def. McCormick/Bougalis, 6-1, 6-2