SAVAGE -- Entering its first state tournament appearance in 48 years, the Bemidji High School boys tennis team will open the Class AA state tournament at noon on Tuesday, June 8.
The unseeded Lumberjacks face some stiff competition as they are set to meet second-seeded Edina in the quarterfinals of the team tournament at Prior Lake High School in Savage. The Hornets feature four singles players ranked in the top 10 in the state.
“It’s pretty close between the one or the two seeds,” head coach Kyle Fodness said. “So we’re playing one of the top teams in the state.”
Top-seeded Wayzata will meet Duluth East in the first quarterfinal at 8 a.m. Rochester Mayo will then meet Mahtomedi at 10 a.m. before the final quarterfinal between Orono and East Ridge at 2 p.m. caps the first round.
The semifinals, third-place match and championship will take place Wednesday, June 9.
No matter how tough the opposition may be on paper, the Lumberjacks have already faced their fair share of adversity this season.
BHS (15-3) suffered two of its three regular-season losses to Alexandria, but found a way to knock off the Cardinals when it mattered most. Bemidji secured its spot at state by toppling Alex 5-2 in the Section 8AA Team Tournament championship last Wednesday.
The Jacks also lost early in the season to Thief River Falls, but subsequently beat the Prowlers later in the spring.
“Really, they haven’t lost to a team yet that they haven’t come back and beaten,” Fodness said. “That’s really a credit to the boys. They can experience a setback and that kind of motivates them to come back stronger for the next one.”
Given it’s been since 1973 that the Lumberjacks last made it to this stage, this year’s team looks to make the most of the opportunity.
“Every spot on the court matters, whether you’re playing fourth singles or first singles,” junior John McNallan said. “Everyone has to put in everything they have in every single match to try to come up with a win for the team.”
After the team tournament is complete, BHS senior Filippo Buffo will take part in the Class AA individual singles tournament that begins Thursday, June 10. Buffo followed up the team’s section crown by nabbing the Section 8AA singles title one day later, giving the Jacks representatives in both the team and individual state tournaments this week.
“It’s really a reflection of all the hard work the boys have put in and what a positive, resilient and mentally tough group this has been all throughout the year,” Fodness said. “They’ve really done a great job improving.”