Alexandria’s win not only served as a confidence boost moving forward but also punched a ticket to a much-anticipated rematch against Bemidji on Thursday.
“We wanted to start fast and play well right away, so the pressure would be on (Little Falls),” Alexandria head coach Dave Ronning said. “We did that up and down today. One of the goals I try to set for the girls is every time we play somebody weaker; I want us to learn something new. I like to say that if you win 6-0, 6-0, you didn’t learn anything because you didn’t try anything new. Make mistakes and grow in matches like these.”
Alexandria’s No. 1 singles player, Briana Holm, has been a shoulder for the Cardinals to lean on all fall. Match in and match out, she faces the best each team has to offer. On Tuesday afternoon, she beat Tori Gottwalt 6-1, 6-1, in her final home meet.
Briana Holm throws the ball up for a serve on Tuesday during Alexandria’s 7-0 win over Little Falls in the first round of the Section 6A tournament. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
“It can be pretty nerve-racking sometimes depending on what team we are playing,” Holm said. “I know that I have to be at my best every single time I come out here. Each day is different too, so I always want to be consistent. You can play a million times better one day and a million times worse the next in tennis. I try to tell myself that every day is a new day and play like I have nothing to lose.”
Ronning looks to leaders like Holm to carry the burden of playing in those high-intensity matches at the top of the card.
“I like to make an analogy for what it’s like playing No. 1 singles or doubles,” Ronning said. “In football, the offensive line is the most important part of the team. They get dirty and create the holes for the running backs to get all of the glory. In tennis, the top singles and doubles have to play in tougher matchups for other girls to grab wins against weaker competition. But every once and awhile, somebody fumbles, and you get to pick up the ball and run for a touchdown. That’s the reward of playing the best players time in and time out.”
Holm plays side-by-side on the courts with Tabea Roggenbuck, who beat Ashley Hagen 6-3, 6-1 at second singles. Even in a singles competition, they find ways to make it feel like they’re playing on the same court.
Whitly Netland jumps for a return shot during Alexandria’s 7-0 win over Little Falls in the first round of the Section 6A tournament. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
“She keeps me sane, that’s for sure,” Holm said. “You can really psych yourself out in any match. When I used to play doubles, I learned that having somebody there for you helps you mentally. You need to keep that with you in any match. Even when I’m playing in tournaments outside of high school, I want to interact with the people on the sidelines to help me eliminate the negative parts of my game.”
Alexandria, the third seed on the North half of the section, will travel to second-seeded Bemidji for the quarterfinal matchup on Thursday. The Cardinals lost the regular-season meeting 5-2 but had several matches that could’ve gone the other way.
“Sarah (Jiang) lost in three sets in No. 3 singles, and I think she can beat that girl this time,” Ronning said. “She’s a very determined kid, and when she gets beat, she makes a note of it and wants to beat them the next time they play. Our No. 1 doubles team won the first set in Bemidji and was up 3-0 in the second set. We were counting that as a point before they lost 11 out of the next 12 games. They and No. 2 doubles have to get us a point.”
Jiang won the No. 3 singles match on Tuesday over Clair Kimman 6-1, 6-1. Kaylee Svee and Whitly Netland beat Julia Vetch and Jenna Athman 6-1, 6-1 in No. 1 singles while Anna Doherty and MaKenna Aure swept the No. 2 doubles match 6-0, 6-1.
MaKenna Aure returns a serve in the No. 2 doubles match during Alexandria’s 7-0 win over Little Falls in the first round of the Section 6A tournament. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
Jaya Hatlestad was one of two wins the Cardinals earned in Bemidji during the regular season. She won her No. 4 singles match 6-0, 6-0, and will be counted on, along with No. 3 doubles, to pick up crucial points on Thursday.
“We got those wins in Bemidji the first time, and we need them again,” Ronning said. “I like having seniors in those spots, especially in No. 3 doubles. Our two girls, Maci (Tilleskjor) and Grace (Reed) have the experience where a lot of teams don’t in that spot. We need to get them to bring that energy like it could be their last time playing because it might be. I think we can do that, and we have a lot of confidence in them and Jaya to get it done.”
The Cardinals remember the feeling of riding home on the bus from Bemidji empty-handed. Holm doesn’t think they’ll have a problem turning that into motivation.
Kaylee Svee hits a backhander over the net in the No. 1 doubles much during Alexandria’s 7-0 win over Little Falls in the first round of the Section 6A tournament. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
“There isn’t a girl in any match that has a hard time finding that determination,” Holm said. “We are all out here for one goal, and that’s to win and keep playing.”
ALEXANDRIA 7, LITTLE FALLS 0
SINGLES- No. 1- Briana Holm (A) def. Tori Gottwalt 6-1, 6-1; No. 2- Tabea Roggenbuck (A) def. 6-3, 6-1, No. 3- Sarah Jiang (A) def. 6-1, 6-1; No. 4- Jaya Hatlestad (A) def. N/A 6-0, 6-0; Exhibition – Marisa Rousu (A) won, 6-1, 6-0
DOUBLES- No. 1- Kaylee Svee-Whitly Netland (A) def. Julia Vetch-Jenna Athman 6-1, 6-1; No. 2- Anna Doherty-MaKenna Aure (A) def. Silvia Erwin-Brenna Magee 6-0, 6-1; No. 3- Maci Tilleskjor-Grace Reed (A) def. Haily McDuffee-Alexis Nelson 6-1, 6-2; Exhibition – Rachel Wegner/Hakyma Von Bargen (A) won, 6-0, 6-2
Sarah Jiang returns a shot in the No. 3 singles match on Tuesday afternoon during Alexandria’s 7-0 win over Little Falls in the first round of the Section 6A tournament. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)