BRAINERD — Hibbing High School girls tennis coach Gary Conda knew Brainerd would be a little deeper than his team, but he still got 100-percent effort from all 10 of his players on the court.
In the end, the Warriors had a little too much firepower at third doubles en route to a 4-3 Section 7AA second-round victory over the Bluejackets Thursday.
The match could have gone either way, but Brainerd, which started six seniors, had more depth than Hibbing.
“Overall, we played tremendously,” Conda said. “Brainerd had one player better than us. They had a senior at third doubles, who made the difference in the end, but they were a lot like us.
“On paper, they were deeper, and that’s exactly how it turned out.”
With the score tied 3-3, it came down to the third-doubles match with Hibbing freshmen Opal Valeri and Heidi Rasch against Avery Anakkala and Claire Erdal.
The two teams split the first two sets with Anakkala, who is the senior, and Erdal winning 6-4, but Valeri and Rasch won the second set 7-5.
Anakkala then took over in the third set, which gave Brainerd a 6-3 win and the match.
It was Anakkala’s calm under the pressure that helped the Warriors persevere.
“We had two freshmen trying to win an important match,” Conda said. “It came down to a couple of shots, and a little bit of nerves. I thought they did a great job. They did come around, but it was 2-5. That’s when they started playing.
“It came down to a point to get to 4-5, then Avery made a couple of great shots. Had we made it 4-5, we may have pulled it out. We had the momentum going our way. It was a great match.”
Conda had nothing but praise for Valeri and Rasch.
“If we get in the same situation next year, those two won’t lose that match,” Conda said. “We’ll be mentally stronger from this.”
Before that match, things went back-and-forth.
At first doubles, Abigail Sullivan and Annika Lundell took care of Brynne Folden and Lila Collins, winning 6-3, 6-1.
“We took it to them,” Conda said. “That’s probably the best Abigail and Annika had played all year. They’re the second seeded team in the north, and we put them away.”
Brainerd won at second and third singles with Taylor Ruhl beating Megan Bussey 6-4, 6-4, and Catherine Moraghan downing Mercedes Furin 6-1, 6-3.
“Megan got off to a great start, then the other girls got better,” Conda said. “They had two highly-fought sets. It was good tennis. Mercedes couldn’t get it to that girls’ backhand.
“She ran around everything. She had a nice forehand, and used it from anywhere on the court. Mercedes needed a little more power in her game.”
At first singles, Claire Rewertz would beat Ella Chaussee 6-3, 6-4, and at fourth singles, Aune Boben downed Lacy Busch 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
“Claire played exceptionally well,” Conda said. “At fourth singles, that girl was undefeated. Aune must have put on 15 miles in that match, more than in a cross-country event.
“She ran from corner to corner. The other girl had more power than Aune, but she kept running the ball down. Aune tired her out, and beat her 6-1.”
At second doubles, the Brainerd’s Lindsy Busch and Ericah Folden beat Kasey Jo Renskers and Bella Vincent 6-2, 6-1.
“Their two doubles were good at retrieving and getting balls back,” Conda said. “When it looked like we might hit a winner, they got their rackets on it.”
The team season has come to an end, but Conda said from top to bottom, the team played well.
“There’s no way we left this season on a downer,” Conda said. “The girls played well. They were better at the end of the season, far better than we were at the beginning. I couldn’t be happier.
“Winning is nice, but we did get better.”
Brainerd 4, Hibbing 3
Singles: Claire Rewertz, H, def. Ella Chaussee, 6-3, 6-4; No. 2 — Taylor Ruhle, B, def. Megan Bussey, 6-4, 6-4; No. 3 — Catherine Moraghan, B, def. Mercedes Furin, 6-1, 6-3; No. 4 — Aune Boben, H, def. Lacy Busch, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
Doubles: No. 1 — Abigail Sullivan-Annika Lundell, H, def. Brynne Folden-Lila Collins, 6-3, 6-1; No. 2 — Lindsy Busch-Ericah Folden, B, def. Kasey Jo Renskers-Bella Vincent, 6-2, 6-1; No. 3 — Avery Anakkala-Claire Erdal, B, def. Opal Valeri-Heidi Rasch, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.