Arrow netters come up short in bid for 3A team title

Hoping to take a huge step in program history, the Pipestone Area girls’ tennis team came up just short of qualifying for the Class A state tournament Thursday at Huether Family Match Pointe in Sioux Falls, S.D. as the Arrows fell to the Luverne Cardinals 3-4 in the championship match of the Section 3A team tournament. 

In a rematch of the Battle Racket tilt the week before that saw the Arrows edge the Cardinals 4-3, Pipestone Area hoped for a similar outcome – one that would have them playing at state as a team for the first time in program history.

“Facing them the week prior, it gave our girls a lot of confidence heading into the section tournament,” Pipestone Area head coach Colin Hoppe said. “In talking with (assistant) James (Skyberg) about lineups and changes we could make we thought our best lineup was the lineup we’ve gone with all season. We thought, maybe, we could hold out in a couple of spots, maybe we could turn a couple matches around when they switched their lineup up. I still think we made the right decision in sticking with our normal lineup, but the cards weren’t in our favor this time around.”

The Arrows claimed 3-of-4 singles tilts against the Cardinals, but couldn’t come up with either a singles sweep or a split of the three doubles matches. PAS senior Toryn Woelber knocked off the Cards’ No. 1 singles player Rayann Remme in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1, while Brielle Kulm and Jenna Boeke dispatched Luverne’s Nos. 2 and 3, Morgan Hadler and Augusta Papik, in kind – winning by scores of 6-2, 6-3 and 6-1, 6-4, respectively, to give the Arrows their three team points.

Unfortunately for the state hopefuls, they couldn’t secure a point in doubles competition. Arrow juniors Alyssa Enger and Madison Purdin nearly rallied to force a third set against Sarah Stengega and Katharine Kelm at No. 1 doubles, but despite leading 5-4 in the second set dropped a 2-6, 5-7 decision. Likewise, Alicia Haack and Vivian Brockberg came up short at No. 2 doubles against Luverne’s Cassi Chelsey and Roselynn Hartshorn, bowing out 3-6, 1-6, while Addison Draper and Laura Minet fell to the Cardinals’ third tandem of Tori Hemme and Priscilla Meuhr 1-6, 3-6 – leaving the No. 4 singles tilt as the concluding and deciding match.

Again, fortune favored the Cardinals as they pitted the experienced Caitlin Kindt, who had played at No. 2 most of the regular season, against PAS eighth-grader Jasmine Boeke. The Arrow youngster played well enough to snatch the first set 6-4 before Kindt could mount a comeback – winning the second set 6-1 to force a third. In the end, experience won out and the Cardinals rushed the court to celebrate with Kindt who emerged with a 6-2 victory in the third.

Pipestone Area senior Toryn Woelber

“Jasmine is an amazing player and at no point during the entire season did James or I ever walked out to her getting down on herself or thinking she couldn’t do it; she has an amazing attitude on the court,” Hoppe said. “She knew from the moment that last point was made …could hear the Luverne girls cheering. We sat there and talked about it for a minute or two, ‘this is part of it, this is how you get better and this is what we learn from.’ 

“Next year, with another year of practice, maybe we can turn some of those points around. Working through the winter and getting some summer tennis in, we can show up next season ready to go and show everyone how we’ve learned and grown and maybe we can get the team back to this situation, the championship match, again.”

The top-seeded Arrows made their way to the championship tilt with a 5-2 victory over the Morris Area Tigers earlier in the morning, again winning 3-of-4 singles tilts and capturing 2-of-3 doubles contests.

“We went into the Morris match maybe a little timid because of our score against them in the second match of the season, but we knew we were a different team from the beginning of the season,” Hoppe said. “The girls talked with each other before the match and got themselves into the right mindset. Our serves were on, groundstrokes were on and everything … clicked.”

Haack and Brockberg pulled out a marathon 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win against Nora Meek and Lydia Fynboh at No. 2, while Draper and Minet edged Izabell Hoffman and Grace Hauglie 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5) in a tight match that saw several deuce points played. 

Pipestone Area junior Brielle Kulm

Enger and Purdin couldn’t quite match to output of their doubles teammates in dropping a 4-6, 6-7 (6-8) match to Karlie Bruns and Ashley Koehl, and Jasmine Boeke’s 6-4, 2-6, 2-6, loss to Chloe Zimmel had the Arrows needing two of the remaining three team points available to advance to the finals.

The Arrows claimed all three, as Woelber, Kulm and Jenna Boeke triumphed in the Nos. 1-3 singles matches. Woelber blanked Claire Stark 6-0, 6-0, Kulm knocked off Kristen Muller in a three-set thriller, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) and Jenna Boeke slid past Elizabeth Pollard with relative ease, 6-1, 6-3, to propel the Arrows into the championship against the Cardinals.

“Those were the two best tennis matches, other than the outcome of the Luverne match, I could have asked the girls to play; they showed up to play, showed up with the right mindset and they were on,” Hoppe said. “I’m just so proud of the way the girls played and I’m excited to see what this team can do next season.”

A season where the Arrows are likely to be one of the most experienced sides, losing just one player to graduation.

“We ended with a 12-8 record, won the Battle Racket back for Pipestone, we went on a six-match winning streak there for a while and we had a handful of individual champions at the Worthington tournament – an amazing season – and I can’t wait for Thursday and Tuesday (Oct. 18) to maybe send some kids to the individual state tournament,” Hoppe said. “I can’t tell these girls enough how proud of them I am and how proud I am to be their coach. 

“The biggest part with this individual tournament is seeing how we’re going to stack up against the players who are likely to move between singles and doubles brackets.  There’s not a lot of difference from when we went into the team tournament, though; we still have to show up with the right mindset, the right attitude and we’ll see how well we can work our way through the brackets. 

The Arrows will open the Section 3A individual tournament Thursday morning back at Huether Family Match Pointe.