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Mitchell finishes strong to place ninth at state tennis

RAPID CITY—The 2018 South Dakota High School Activities Association girls tennis championship tournament wrapped up Saturday in Rapid City and after the three-day event, Mitchell High School finished the tournament in ninth place, with 243 points.

The Kernels got off to a slow start in the tournament, failing to advance anyone to the semifinal rounds, but they managed to bounce back on Saturday to place in four flights.

"There was a lot of pretty good teams there and during the season we lost some matches at every flight that we probably shouldn't have lost and that hurt their seeds," MHS head coach Pat Moller said. "When you get into six, seven, eight and nine-seeds, those second round matches, you're playing another pretty high seed and when you do that, both opponents are pretty close so it's going to be whoever steps up the most."

Freshman Olivia Huber stepped up in No. 6 singles on Saturday after suffering her first loss of the tournament the day before, falling into the fifth place bracket as a result.

Huber made the most of it, beating Rapid City Christian's Anna Ligtenberg in the semifinals, 8-2. She then followed that with a win over Aberdeen Central's Megan Thorne, 10-4, to take home fifth place for the tournament.

"She was able to adjust to the varying conditions," Moller said. "She played in windy conditions, then she played in the cold and then she went inside and played probably her best matches of the year. She went back outside for the fifth place match and her ability to adjust to the different conditions was probably the difference for her."

Madison Bohlen and Kiersten Bathke placed sixth in No. 2 doubles after winning the fifth place semifinal match against Brandon Valley, 10-7, and then fell behind to St. Thomas More, 7-2, before clawing back and eventually falling, 10-8.

Mitchell also had two ninth-place finishes on Saturday as Atlanta Stahle was able to beat Brandon Valley's Marie Pelletier, 10-6, for ninth place in No. 5 singles.

Meanwhile, the No. 1 doubles tandem of Avery Larson and Kelsey Dahme topped Katelyn Nesheim and Taylor Olson of Sioux Falls Washington, 8-5, before moving on to the consolation finals to beat Ellie Litzen and Hallie Haskell of Aberdeen Roncalli, 10-6.

"Once they realized they were consolation bracket, sometimes it's hard to stay motivated, but you have to give them credit for that," Moller said. "They had to play and beat some quality opponents, but in both cases they came out on top."

Sioux Falls Lincoln won the tournament with 611 points for the second consecutive season.