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GIRLS TENNIS: Jacks fall to Alexandria in season opener

BHS sophomore Lexi Leitner returns a volley in a doubles match against Alexandria on Wednesday at the high school. Leitner was playing with BHS junior Hannah Nelson. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 2
BHS freshman Savannah Haugen returns a serve in a singles match Wednesday against Alexandria at the high school. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School girls tennis team opened the Lumberjacks’ fall home sports season Wednesday afternoon, dropping a tight match 4-3 to Alexandria at BHS.

“It’s always fun to see how the players react under match pressure, and that worked out really well today because we were such a good matchup with Alexandria,” BHS head coach Mark Fodness said. “So many of the matches were determined just by a few points, so it put us under pressure early, and in some cases we responded pretty well and in some cases we came up a little short.”

Picking up wins for the Jacks were Savannah Haugen at first singles (6-1, 6-4), the junior pairing of Bethany Chatterton and Aftyn Schmidt at second doubles (2-6, 6-4, (11-9)) and the freshman duo of Paige Anderson and Chloe Hasbargen at third doubles (6-1, 6-4).

After Haugen cruised to her 6-1 win over Alex sophomore Brianna Holm in the first set, Holm came out hard in set two.

“She got off to a little bit of a slow start the second set, and at first singles you really have to learn to keep that pedal down because anybody can come back,” said Fodness.

But Haugen was able to compose herself and take the match in straights sets with a 6-4 set two victory.

In the No. 3 doubles slot, Anderson and Hasbargen played their first ever varsity match, but they made it look easy with the two-set win.

“Honestly besides Savannah, that might’ve been our most consistent performance today,” Fodness said. “Not just because they won, but because they did a great job of keeping the ball in play and at third doubles you want to try to force the other team to beat you. They did a great job and got their first wins.”

At second, third and fourth singles, the Cardinals were able to take advantage of Bemidji’s inexperience.

Laura Wilmesmeier topped senior Taylor Offerdahl, who made the transition to singles after years of doubles play for the Jacks, with two straight tiebreaker wins (7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4)).

Freshman and first-time varsity competitor Tatum Offerdahl fell to Annie Harding 7-5, 7-5, while senior Carley Swanson-Garro dropped her No. 4 match 6-4, 6-2.

Lumberjacks sophomore Lexi Leitner and junior Hannah Nelson took Madison Ressemann and Abby Sater, two Alex seniors, in the first set, but the Cardinals gained momentum as the afternoon went on for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 win.

“First doubles played a great first set, and then probably I think they’d be the first ones to say they maybe let up just a little bit, played it a little safe in the second and it got away from them,” Fodness said. “They got behind in the third and then they actually started to play really well again, but it was just too little, too late.”

Ultimately, Fodness said the match was good for the Jacks to get some experience under their belts and start getting some of the early-season jitters out of their system.

“It’s really good experience, and it’s something you just have to kind of learn from,” he said. “I think both things would say the same thing: early in the season, you’re making a lot of correctable mistakes.

“We’re pretty young, but we’re also pretty inexperienced. Even the older girls have been behind some pretty good players the last couple of years. You can’t get too high or two low on the first match of the year. You have to look at the big picture, and I thought we did OK today but we have potential definitely to get better so that’s exciting.”

The Lumberjacks went on to take on Thief River Falls to finish the day’s triangular and the Prowlers claimed the match 6-1.

Taylor Offerdahl took Bemidji’s lone win with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Ava Yuska.