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State tennis begins today for MHS girls

(Kevin Pottebaum/Republic) Mitchell High School's Sammy Pooley prepares to make a backhand during a tennis match earlier this season.

The Mitchell High School girls' tennis team begins play at 10 a.m. Central time today at the state girls' tennis tournament in Rapid City.

The Kernels have eight players participating in the tournament this year and seniors Courtney Wells and Chelsea Kracht and sophomore Grace Grabenstein are the only players with state tournament experience.

"You've always got to root for your seniors," head coach Pat Moller said, referring to Wells and Kracht. "I want them to go out on top and play their very best."

Wells, Mitchell's No 1 singles player, said playing tennis has given her a lot of good memories.

"It's been a long journey and I've met a lot of good people playing tennis," Wells said. "It'll be sad when I'm done."

Wells has the best singles record on the team going 10-16 on the season, while No. 2 Kracht's record is 3-21.

The seniors team up for the No. 1 doubles team as well and have a record of 4-20.

"It was rough in the beginning because we hadn't really played together before," Kracht said. "Now we communicate a lot better and we're used to how each other plays so we're improving."

Moller said he wants the younger players to take full advantage of the new experience of playing at the state tournament.

"I want our younger girls to soak it all in," Moller said. "I want them to experience it and take everything away from it that they can because we have many more years to go with them, and I don't want it to be new to them anymore."

This season, No. 3 Grabenstein has a record of 6-15, No. 4 Haley Smith is 8-18, No. 5 Halle Larson is 7-19 and No. 6 Tatum Dean has a record of 5-18.

The No. 2 doubles team of Grabenstein and Smith has a season record of 8-14, while No. 3 doubles of Allison Buckley and Sammy Pooley has a record of 7-13.

Buckley and Pooley were the consolation champions at the Eastern South Dakota Conference tournament last week.

"Some of our scores and matches haven't really showed this, but I do believe that we're playing our best right now," Moller said. "If I took a snapshot of the beginning of the year and compared it to right now, everyone would be able to see we've made a lot of strides."

Sioux Falls O'Gorman has won the team title the last five years.

Matches will be played at Sioux Park and Parkview Tennis Complex. The tournament continues through Saturday.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.