Tourney run ends for ALHS girls

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 10, 2002

ST. PETER &045; Unofficially, the Albert Lea High School girls’ tennis team finished third in the Section 2AA tournament.

Without question, the Tigers went farther than most everyone expected.

The ALHS girls saw their dual-meet season end Wednesday with a 7-0 loss to Hutchinson in the section semifinals at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. An expected meet to determine third place was not held, but the Tigers played St. Peter – which lost to Waseca in the other semifinal – and defeated the Saints 5-2 in an unofficial matchup.

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&uot;We really played well up there,&uot; said Tigers coach Sean Gillam. &uot;We had a good turnout, the girls had a lot of fun. Hutchinson is a very good team with an excellent record, and our girls gained a lot of experience there. The score does not indicate how it went, it doesn’t show how we played. We played well.&uot;

Reaching the section’s final four was not something people expected from the Tigers, who two years ago won only one meet and last year won two. This year, they beat four Big Nine opponents and won twice in the section tournament.

&uot;We played well, we had fun,&uot; said Gillam. &uot;We went a lot farther than most people thought we would.&uot;

And, according to Gillam, the Tigers’ progress continued through their meet with Hutchinson, which lost 4-3 to Waseca for the section title and state tournament berth. The Tigers took two matches to three sets and kept it close at almost every spot.

At No. 1 singles, Becky Birkhofer dropped a hard-fought 7-6 (7-5 tiebreaker), 6-4 decision, while Karen Leonard fell 6-1, 6-4 at No. 3. Senior Jasey Porter won the first set 6-2 at No. 3 singles but dropped the next two 6-1, 6-4. Elizabeth Thompson was defeated 6-1, 6-0 at No. 4.

Seniors Nicole Merfeld and Elizabeth Schreiber lost a long three-setter at No. 3 doubles, falling 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1. Ashley Helgerson and Nicole Rafdal lost 6-3, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles while Amanda Rose and Kirsten Wulff fell 6-2, 6-4 at No. 2.

While the Tigers’ 5-2 victory over St. Peter came against a Saints lineup missing two starters, prompting both coaches to shuffle their lineup, Gillam is confident the Tigers could have won it anyway.

&uot;I definitely think we could have won it,&uot; he said.

And, win or lose, Gillam said it’s been a great season and he looks forward to even better things in the future.

&uot;I’m proud of how the girls played, how they handled adversity and a tough schedule,&uot; said the coach. &uot;It definitely sets us up nice for next year, especially if the girls put in some time during the offseason. We return a lot of great players. The section tournament

was definitely an enjoyable experience, a building experience. And it’s something the girls will always remember.&uot;

The tournament marked the end of the dual-meet season for the Tigers, but they’ll send two singles players and two doubles teams to the individual section tournament Saturday.

&uot;We’re definitely looking forward to that,&uot; said Gillam.