SARTELL -- History once again sided with the Bemidji High School girls tennis team on Friday.
The Lumberjacks won the Section 8AA Team Tournament for the second consecutive season in Sartell, beating St. Cloud Tech 6-1 in the semifinals and Becker 4-3 in the championship.
“They’re so tight as a team. And we really needed it today, that cohesiveness and support and belief in each other,” BHS head coach Kyle Fodness said. “They certainly hit a lot of good shots, but I don’t think we’d be walking off the court with two wins today if they weren’t such a supportive group of each other.”
A year ago, Bemidji won the section title for the first time since 2008. But, due to the pandemic, the Jacks didn’t have the opportunity to advance to state because the MSHSL opted to not hold state competitions.
That all-too-early end to the season sure won’t be the case this fall, though.
“For the returners, we had talked about the (new) goal: This is great, you’ve won the section, but you haven’t had a chance to go down to the state tournament,” Fodness said. “You’re playing for something new still. … They really embraced that thought.”
The pivotal moment of the championship came on the fourth singles court. BHS junior Anna Glen lost the first set 6-1 and was staring defeat in the face deep in the second set.
And Glen didn’t blink.
“She saved four match points,” Fodness said. “She saved them all, and then she came back and won. That ended up being our clinching point.
“When her time came, she was ready to go. That will go down as one of the best individual wins that Bemidji girls tennis has ever had.”
Glen and the Lumberjacks hardly had any trouble in the semifinals against St. Cloud Tech. The singles lineup of Savannah Haugen, Emily Dondelinger, Mollie Rupp and Glen all prevailed, while the Tatum Offerdahl/Chloe Hasbargen and Darby Neis/Madi Jensen doubles pairings won in straight sets at Nos. 1 and 3, respectively.
The 6-1 win vaulted Bemidji back into the championship, but Becker made it hurt out of the gates.
“Becker came out and hit us pretty hard right away,” Fodness said. “We lost four out of (the first) five first sets.”
Momentum swung from that point on, though.
All of the Lumberjacks’ doubles teams wound up winning. Offerdahl and Hasbargen posted a 6-1, 6-4 win at the top spot, Abby Johnson and Paige Anderson followed as 6-2, 6-0 victors at No. 2, and the Neis/Jensen duo came from behind to win 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.
That, paired with Glen’s rally at fourth singles, was just enough to grind out the 4-3 victory.
“I know I’m a little biased here,” Fodness said, “but our match really was one of the best tennis matches I’ve ever seen, collectively as a team.”
Friday’s championship marks the sixth section title all-time for BHS. This is the first time Bemidji has clinched back-to-back titles since 2007-08, while the program also won it all in 1989 and 1999.
Undoubtedly, the latest chapter will be one for the ages.
“They really compete for each other. They won it in a really good way,” Fodness said. “Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but I’m really proud that all their hard work paid off (with) that milestone.”
The Class AA state team tournament is scheduled for Oct. 26-27 in the Twin Cities.
First, though, Haugen and the pairing of Hasbargen and Dondelinger will compete in the Section 8AA Individual Tournament on Saturday, Oct. 16, back in Sartell.
Bemidji 6, St. Cloud Tech 1
No. 1: Haugen (BHS) def. Tarrolly, 6-2, 6-3
No. 2: Dondelinger (BHS) def. Marohl, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
No. 3: Rupp (BHS) def. Bauerly, 6-1, 6-2
No. 4: Glen (BHS) def. Wilfong, 6-4, 6-2
No. 1: Offerdahl/Hasbargen (BHS) def. Starren/Miller, 6-3, 6-2
No. 2: I. Anderson/Brown (SCT) def. Johnson/P. Anderson, 6-2, 6-2
No. 3: Neis/Jensen (BHS) def. Verant/Davidson, 6-1, 6-2
Bemidji 4, Becker 3
No. 1: Moe (BEK) def. Haugen, 6-1, 7-6 (7)
No. 2: Brown (BEK) def. Dondelinger, 6-2, 6-4
No. 3: Nuest (BEK) def. Rupp, 6-1, 6-3
No. 4: Glen (BEM) def. Croal, 1-6, 7-6 (8), 6-1
No. 1: Offerdahl/Hasbargen (BEM) def. Toedter/Peterson, 6-1, 6-4
No. 2: Johnson/Anderson (BEM) def. Gott/Bass, 6-2, 6-0
No. 3: Neis/Jensen (BEM) def. Drehmel/L. Anderson, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2