Tennis: Brainerd Aces advance
BAXTER - An 8-3 girls double victory coupled with Brooke Mimmack's 8-0 blowout in girls singles propelled the Brainerd Aces into the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Junior Team Tennis Sectional.
The Aces downed the Hibbing Rangers 31-27 during Tuesday's championship match in the 18 and under Intermediate tournament held at Forestview Middle School.
The doubles team of Ashley Fitterer and Claire Gunsbury opened the finals with their 8-3 victory then watched Mimmack dismantle her singles opponent.
Jordan Kleist, playing boys singles, fell 8-5, the boys doubles team of Travis Goeden-Garrett Goeden lost 8-3 and the mixed doubles of Payge Fitterer and Joe Anderholm fell 8-7. Despite losing their matches those players collected enough points for the team victory.
The win means the Aces will travel to the University of Minnesota Baseline Center July 30-31 in Minneapolis for the sectional. Despite losing, the Rangers will also advance as a wild card team.
"Initially, I came out here to have fun, and I'm sure everyone did, but once we realized we had a good chance of going I definitely took today more seriously," said Ashley Fitterer.
The Aces won their Monday pool play with 99 points to secure the No. 2 spot in the bracket. The Rangers won the other pool to secure the No. 1 seed.
The Aces opened against Brainerd's other team, the Smashes, which rostered Hailey Hinricks, Hannah Moen, Emily Price, Brayden Mick, Brandon Cole, Adam Kleist and Theo Knudson, who won the male sportsmanship award.
"When we played against our own teammates that was kind of hard to take seriously," said Gunsbury. "It helped to think about the big scheme of things and what we were playing for."
Brainerd then defeated the Virginia Blue Devils in the semifinals 28-27 before topping the Rangers.
The Blue Devils finished third by beating the Hibbing Bluejackets 39-21. The Duluth Longview A squad beat the Duluth Longview B squad 40-12 for fifth place and the Red Roosters of Hibbing beat the Smashes 33-16 for seventh place.
The tandem of Gunsbury and Fitter played doubles on the Brainerd Warriors fall girls team, but not together last season. After a couple of matches they found a comfort zone.
"We both stay calm under pressure and we both encourage each other," said Gunsbury.
Fitter added: "Our strengths and weaknesses complement each other."
Last season, the sophomore duo of Fitter and Mimmack played No. 1 doubles and advanced deep into the Section 8-2A playoffs.
"I'm working on serves and keeping them consistent," said Fitterer. "I'm also working on just my movement around the court."
Gunsbury was teamed with the graduated Kristen Anderson to play No. 2 doubles last season. She's uncertain where she will fit in this coming fall season.
"I want to be a lot more comfortable with my second serve because right now I don't have a solid one," said Gunsbury. "And then not being nervous when I play. I just need to be more confident with my shots.
"I really don't know what I'll be playing this year because I played doubles with a senior last year. Wherever (Brainerd head coach Lisa) Salo wants me is where I'll play. Right now, I would be more comfortable in doubles, but I'm working on my confidence and stuff so I think I could get to be a competent singles player."
Kleist played singles during the spring boys season before moving to doubles play in the North Subsection 8-2A individual tournament.
The Goedens were coming off a boys 15-and-under doubles title in the 15th-annual Mary Sandstrom Memorial Youth Golf and Tennis Tournament July 9-10 in Grand Rapids.
Brainerd's 12-U team the Topspins will compete in the Aug. 1 section. That team of Chloe Pecarich, Allyson Goeden, Peyton McConkey, John Pecarich, Keenan Dwain and Jordan Oehrlein advanced in their three-team qualifier.