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WF girls tennis takes fifth at state

The West Fargo girls tennis team entered last weekend's North Dakota Class A state tournament in Fargo on a high note.

Only the week before, the Packers had finished second at the East Region tournament, and qualified five players for state - a team best, according to coach Chad Anderson.

Fitting, then, that West Fargo would add to its momentous year during state.

After three nail-bitingly close matches, the Packers prevailed as this year's consolation champions by defeating Bismarck 3-2 in the title game.

"It was a good way to end the season," Anderson said. "And it's better than fourth place; this way you have to win twice."

Both Sammie Smith and Kaylee Stock picked up wins in the game against opponents they had never beaten before, Anderson noted, which gave the Packers critical points towards the victory.

Grand Forks Red River, coincidentally, picked up its 11th straight state championship after beating Bismarck St. Mary's by the same score.

And after the Packers' five representatives worked their way through the individual tournament - three singles players and a doubles team - one ended it with top honors.

Smith finished 4-1 at the tournament to earn the consolation championship title. The sophomore beat Bismarck St. Mary's Mary Roller 6-4, 6-2 in the fifth-place matchup. It's the first time a West Fargo player has ever placed in the Top 5 at state, Anderson said.

Smith earned a spot on the All-State Team, which fit nicely next to the conference distinction of the same nature she earned the week before.

Smith's only loss of the individual tournament, 6-0, 6-2, came to Bismarck Century's Sarah Janes in the championship quarterfinals. Janes would continue on to finish in third place.

West Fargo's other state tournament representatives may not have fared as well as Smith, but still had their share of successes. In fact, all five players won their first-round matches.

"We've never done that before, either," Anderson said.

Sarina Olson defeated Jamestown's Sara Muhs 6-2, 6-3 in the opening round, before dropping her next matches to Fargo South's Karen Moe, the eventual state champion, and Cayla Cordova of Mandan.

Smith avenged her teammate by eliminating Cordova in the next round.

Kaylee Stock also won her first-round match, beating the Saint's Alicia Beck 6-3, 6-4. But she fell to eventual runner-up Caitlin Bakke of St. Mary's in the next round, before getting eliminated by Grand Forks Red River's Alexis Caoili.

The West Fargo doubles team of Katie Baasch and Mariah Stein mirrored their teammates' success, winning 6-4, 7-5 against the Mandan duo of Shelby Gustafson and Amanda Hillstrom, before getting eliminated after the next two rounds.

Overall, the year was positive seemingly from beginning to end. And there's reason for optimism, too: West Fargo will only lose one player, Olson, to graduation.

"With whose coming back for us and (the other teams), it makes a big difference," Anderson said. "We've got a pretty good program going with a lot of very dedicated kids.

"I guess that's why we're so successful."