BEMIDJI -- Savannah Haugen has been vying for an individual trip to state her whole career. But her emphasis ahead of the state tournament was on the word “extremely.”
“I’m really glad that I finally got here, especially in my senior year,” Haugen said. “But I’m extremely excited to go down with my team because I love all of them and they’re all my close friends.”
Haugen is embracing the trip with the entire Bemidji High School girls tennis lineup. Not only did Haugen qualify as an individual, but the Lumberjacks are also making the trek for the Class AA team tournament.
“It’s really the great thing about tennis,” BHS head coach Kyle Fodness said. “You can compete as a team, but you also have a totally separate competition as an individual. (Haugen) has put in more than enough work to be recognized in that way.”
Bemidji clinched the Section 8AA title on Oct. 15 by defeating St. Cloud Tech 6-1 in the semifinals and Becker 4-3 in the finals. A day later, Haugen went 3-0 in the singles tournament to clinch her first state appearance.
But Haugen actually lost in the team championship against Becker -- a rarity for a player who stands at 31-3 on the year. That meant those around Haugen needed to step up in order to extend the season.
“I was so proud of all of them,” Haugen said. “Especially Anna Glen. She had our fourth point. That’s really what a team is about. Even though I lost my match, they had my back. Now we’re all able to go because of that, because of my teammates.”
Glen survived four match points in her No. 4 singles match against Becker. With her back against the wall, she perfected the team’s goal of forgetting the previous point and focusing on the next.
“At that point, you’re going to give your all and try your best,” Glen said. “If you win, that’s great. But if you lose, you know you played your best tennis. Walk away with that feeling of knowing you did your best.”
Glen ultimately prevailed in that turning point of a second set, and she soon won the fourth team point that booked the Jacks’ trip to state.
“I knew that we had to get one more,” Glen said. “But I don’t think I really realized what it meant until I actually finished. I was so focused on playing my game that it finally dawned on me when I finished.”
Soon Glen and her teammates were flooded with a tsunami of emotions.
“Overwhelming joy and excitement,” Glen said. “Just all the tension from the match (melted away).”
Fodness said that Haugen’s leadership has trickled down throughout the team to make a championship win like that possible.
“On a day when things didn’t go her way competitively… that’s when her leadership shines through,” Fodness said. “From watching, I think Anna’s really picked up a lot of really good things from Savannah. Even just how to compose herself on the court and how to be a really good, confident singles player.”
Taking on the state’s best
BHS also learned its state tournament placement on Friday morning. Bemidji was unseeded and will open against second-seeded Rochester Mayo at noon on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis.
The winner advances to play either third-seeded Blake or unseeded Maple Grove in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27, while the Class AA state championship is set for 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The consolation semifinals will begin Tuesday afternoon, with the consolation championship scheduled for noon on Wednesday.
On the other half of the bracket, top-seeded Minnetonka faces Simley, while fourth-seeded Mounds View and fifth-seeded Elk River clash in the other quarterfinal matchup.
In the singles competition, Haugen was unseeded and will open against unseeded Annika Munson of Mahtomedi in the round of 16 on Thursday, Oct. 28. The winner will play either second-seeded Sarah Shahbaz of Minnetonka or unseeded Chloe Regal of Stewartville in the quarterfinals.
“Now it’s about enjoying what we’ve accomplished and playing our best tennis,” Haugen said. “For me individually, pretty much the same goals. Savoring every moment, especially because it’s my senior year. I’ll never have the chance to do this again.”