It was a heartbreaking end to a stellar season for the Forest Lake girls tennis team, which went 23-0 before falling to Elk River in the second round of Section 7AA play last Tuesday.
This was the third matchup between the teams with the Rangers winning 5-2 both times. But the fourth-seeded Elks turned its play up a notch while visiting top-seeded Forest Lake last week to win 4-3 in a grueling three-hour battle.
Winning for Forest Lake in straight sets was junior Noel Vierra at No. 4 singles and seniors Lindsey Tilton and Risa Anderson at No. 3 doubles. The No. 2 doubles duo of seniors Natalie Wright and Taylor Angelo gutted out a win in three sets.
After earning five first-set wins over the Elks, Forest Lake would not find the fourth point needed to extend its season despite a three-hour dual at No. 2 singles for junior Chase Shortly, who would lose a nailbiter 6-0, 6-7, 5-7. Sophomore Megan Anderson would also lose a tight one in three sets at No. 3 singles as would seniors Bailey Norby and Taylor Emly at No. 1 doubles and senior Taylor Shortly at No. 1 singles.
“It was really a shame,” head coach Violet Shortly said. “The real shame of it was having to play Elk River in the second round and have one of the two best teams eliminated this early. They got a really bad seeding, but there’s not much we can do. You’ve got to win them all — it was close and I can’t complain about the effort of my girls.”
Shortly said this team, which has 14 seniors, is one she will never forget or likely duplicate.
“For these multi-sport kids who pick up their racquets in June and put them away in October, I couldn’t have asked for any more from them,” Shortly said. “I don’t know that any coach could have a team like that — they’re basically all my kids. I am extremely proud of their team effort; they won as a team and everyone contributed to the team.”
At the individual level, Forest Lake had six representatives in the section playoffs.
Senior Natalie Wright earned the seventh seed in Section 7AA and defeated Andover last week, 6-4, 6-3, in the first round before falling in the second round to an undefeated opponent in Mary Claire Mayerchak, of Princeton.
Tilton came in at the 12th seed and lost 6-2, 6-3 to Jade Newman, of Cambridge-Isanti, in the first round.
The Shortly sisters and the duo of Norby and Emly breezed through the south subsection play to earn spots in the championship bracket for doubles in Duluth starting Monday.
The Shortlys defeated Grand Rapids 6-0, 6-2 on Monday while Norby and Emly beat Hermantown 6-0, 6-4 to advance to Tuesday, where the Shortlys would clinch the top section spot to advance to the state tournament. They beat Andover 6-2, 6-2 and Duluth East 6-0, 6-1 to prove themselves the No. 1 doubles team in Section 7AA for the second season in a row.
Norby and Emly finished in the top, falling to Duluth East 6-2, 7-5.
“Taylor and Chase just dominated. This was a really good showing, and there was just no stopping them,” Coach Shortly said. “I was really excited for Taylor and Bailey. Their scores don’t reflect how well they played — they played so well and strong. For their first time being this deep in the tournament, it’s a big deal. There’s definitely something to be said about finishing in the top four.”
Last year, the Shortlys advanced to the state quarterfinals before falling to the Aney sisters, of Rochester Century. Matchups for the 2013 state tournament can be found online later this week at www.mshsl.org.
State doubles play (Class AA) is set to begin on Thursday, Oct. 24, at the University of Minnesota Baseline Tennis Center.