BEMIDJI -- Dancing, breathing exercises and plenty of fist pumps.
Along with wins, that’s what eighth-graders Margie Anderson and Mollie Rupp have brought to the Bemidji High School girls tennis team this season.
“The nicest thing, really, is that the high school girls have embraced them because of their great attitudes,” BHS head coach Kyle Fodness said. “They’re so positive. It’s impossible not to welcome them onto the team with open arms. … It’s given them a lot of confidence.”
Anderson and Rupp may be the youngest Lumberjacks this season, but that hasn’t stopped them from showing out so far. They paired up for a dominant win at third doubles on Tuesday night as Bemidji defeated Moorhead 6-1 under the lights at the high school.
“It’s super exciting to know that we, as eighth graders, have played a part in our wins,” Rupp said. “It’s super fun to see the older players, looking up to them and (seeing) how they support us.”
The duo cruised 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday, contributing again to the team’s 6-0 start. Anderson is now 4-1 in singles matches this year and 1-0 in doubles, while Rupp improves to 4-1, all on the doubles side.
“It feels really good to be part of the varsity team, and winning too,” Anderson said. “Especially as an eighth-grader, being part of the team and succeeding in it (is special).”
Anderson and Rupp hadn’t played together as a doubles pairing -- varsity or otherwise -- but you wouldn’t be able to tell by the way they performed on Tuesday. The instant chemistry shined when Rupp rocketed down a smash at the net -- redemption after missing a near-identical shot the point before -- and Anderson shouted out, “Yes, Mollie!” in encouragement. A few points later, with the set won, Anderson danced over to her partner to celebrate.
“We’ve been friends for a really long time,” Anderson said. “So we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we can help each other on the court. We know how to talk and have fun, too.”
“Even when we’re down, we just try to make it fun because that is a big part of sports,” Rupp added. “Just getting out of your head and having fun.”
As the tandem breezed through their match, many of their elder teammates enjoyed the same success. Lexi Leitner and Nettie Kimble were near-perfect in a 6-0, 6-1 win at No. 1 doubles, and Chloe Hasbargen and Paige Anderson picked up a 6-2, 6-1 victory at second doubles. Both duos improved to 6-0 this season.
On the singles side, Savannah Haugen was challenged at No. 1 singles, but the BHS junior prevailed 6-2, 7-5. Emily Dondelinger fell 4-6, 6-3, 10-7 at No. 2 doubles, but Tatum Offerdahl claimed a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 win at No. 3 ahead of an 0-6, 6-1, 7-5 comeback for Darby Neis at No. 4 singles.
“Really, (our success) is about how resilient this team is,” Fodness said. “(Neis) lost the first set 0-6 and came back to win. I think that’s indicative of why the team’s been so successful: They take it one point at a time and work really hard to win.”
The Jacks return to action at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, to host Alexandria at BHS. Surely, two young guns will be ready to compete.
“Margie and Mollie are just the type of student-athletes who can excel as eighth-graders,” Fodness said. “As a lot of coaches would say, it’s not just about physical talent. Especially at that age. You have to be competitively mature, emotionally and mentally mature. They fit that bill. They’ve always kind of been that way.”
Bemidji 6, Moorhead 1
No. 1: Haugen (BHS) def. Hansen, 6-2, 7-5
No. 2: Hoogland (MHD) def. Dondelinger, 4-6, 6-3, 10-7
No. 3: Offerdahl (BHS) def. Lurnak, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1
No. 4: Neis (BHS) def. Glatl, 0-6, 6-1, 7-5
No. 1: Leitner/Kimble (BHS) def. Overbo/Palmer, 6-0, 6-1
No. 2: Hasbargen/P. Anderson (BHS) def. Kiser/Torkelson, 6-2, 6-1
No. 3: M. Anderson/Rupp (BHS) def. Swenson/Schwantz, 6-2, 6-1