It all came down to No. 3 doubles.
After fifth-seeded Hibbing took No. 4 singles in a three-set match, No. 3 doubles headed into a third set themselves with the winner moving on to the Section 7-2A semifinals Thursday, Oct. 7, at Brainerd High School.
Avery Anakkala and Claire Erdal won the third set 6-3 for the fourth-seeded Brainerd Warriors to move into the next round, winning pressure point after pressure point.
“Pressure is a privilege,” Warriors head coach Lisa Salo said. “We talk about that at the start of the season — it’s one of the messages we talk about and how to handle pressure. We hope we build that as the season goes along and it was a pressure-filled match.”
Anakkala and Erdal's final score was a 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 thriller. Salo said the pair had a similar experience last week when Brainerd beat Bemidji.
“They had a three-set match and that experience builds knowledge and a little bit of comfort,” Salo said. “Not that you want a three-set match, but I could see that they knew how to handle it. This was a very tight match and they knew that they could handle the pressure.”
Lacy Busch played the three-set match at No. 4 singles and fell 6-4, 2-6, 6-1.
The quarterfinals match was close from the start. Catherine Moraghan picked up a crisp 6-1, 6-3 win at No. 3 singles while Hibbing got a quick win themselves at No. 1 doubles 6-3, 6-1.
Brainerd then picked up two big wins at No. 2 singles and at No. 2 doubles to take a 3-1 lead.
Lindsy Busch and Ericah Folden finished first with a clean 6-3, 6-1 match at No. 2 doubles.
“We were both moving really well on the court,” Folden said. “And that just gave us confidence in our game to hit really good shots and after a win like that, we are confident in our team to pull through and get their wins as well.
Lindsy Busch added: “We communicated really well. We made fewer errors. We just never get mad at each other.”
Salo said the score didn’t reflect how well the No. 2 doubles team played.
“They definitely had such a clean match today,” Salo said. “There were pressure moments within that match, but watching them, this was the best match I’ve seen them compete in so far this season. They just played clean, consistent and had good energy and focus.”
Taylor Ruhl said she had to play a different style against her Hibbing opponent at No. 2 singles.
“I definitely had to calm myself down more in the first set to come back,” she said. “Usually I like to hit a little bigger, but it didn’t really seem to be working because I was hitting them out, so I just focused on bigger targets and backspin.”
Nevertheless, Ruhl pulled out a 6-4, 6-4 win.
“It was a different style of player she meant,” Salo said. “She was not putting a lot of pace on the ball and Taylor likes to put pace on the ball and get in the groove of that. So she had to be patient and she had to be really confident in her movement and shot selection.”
At No. 1 singles, Ella Chaussee fell behind early and her comeback came up short as she lost 6-3, 6-4. Salo still liked how her No. 1 singles player competed.
“That was a battle,” Salo said. “And Ella is playing our No. 1 singles and has earned that spot. She’s going to play the strongest player from every team and she represents and leads our team so well. She really looks to play her game and use her groundstrokes. She has that well-placed ball, we call it a rally ball, and we want her to use that in order to find a ball that she can drop and touch or put a little more sting on. She did a great job today.”
Brainerd's next challenge is top-seeded Elk River Thursday, Oct. 14. Prior to the section semis is the first day of the Section 7-2A individual tournament Tuesday, Oct. 12, in Duluth.
“We will celebrate our victory, but get back to work tomorrow,” Salo said. “It’s just going out and playing our game. It's the mental preparation. We are going up against a team that is very, very strong, but we are also a strong team.”
Brainerd 4, Hibbing 3
No. 1: Claire Rewertz (H) def. Ella Chaussee 6-3, 6-4
No. 2: Taylor Ruhl (Brd) def. Megan Bussey 6-4, 6-4
No. 3: Catherine Moraghan (Brd) def. Mercedes Furin 6-1, 6-3
No. 4: Anne Boben (H) def. Lacy Busch 6-4, 2-6, 6-1
No. 1: Abigail Sulivan-Annika Lundell (H) def. Brynne Folden-Lila Collins 6-3, 6-1
No. 2: Lindsy Busch-Ericah Folden (Brd) def. Kasey Jo Reuskers-Bella Vincent 6-2, 6-1
No. 3: Avery Anakkala-Clarie Erdal (Brd) def. Heidi Rasch-Opal Valeri 6-4, 5-7, 6-3
Brainerd 4, Hibbing 3
Key: No. 3 doubles pulls out a three-set match to advance the Warriors into the Section 7-2A Semis.
Overall: Brd 17-1.
Next: Brainerd at Elk River 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.