Girls tennis: Getting ready for the playoffs
Litchfield falls to Delano 5-2 in conference championship, but turns its focus to Section 6A.
LITCHFIELD — The Litchfield Dragons fell short of the Wright County Conference championship on senior night in a 5-2 loss against the Delano Tigers on Monday evening.
Despite the loss, Litchfield head coach Matt Draeger has high hopes that his team will be more prepared for the postseason as a result of competing against strong competition.
“This time of year what you want is competition. We played a very good tennis team,” Draeger said. “Good competition prepares you for the playoffs. … I thought we went toe-to-toe with Delano today.”
The Dragons saw victories from senior Kaitlyn Palmer in the No. 4 singles match and the duo of senior Lauren Erickson and junior Olivia Olson in the No. 1 doubles match.
Palmer defeated Delano’s Maddy Meister, 6-3 and 6-2. She bounced back after losing to Meister on Sept. 24.
“I knew coming into the match how she played. I knew her shots,” Palmer said. “I just told myself to stay more positive this week because I did get pretty negative last week. I was nervous coming into it, but told myself to play my game.”
Erickson and Olson defeated Delano’s Addie Persian and Katelyn Ring in two sets as well. Their first set came as a 7-5 victory and then the pair settled in. They dominated their second set, 6-1.
Erickson and Olson’s victory marks the first time the duo defeated Persian and Ring this season. They went into the championship match with an 0-2 record against Delano’s No. 1 doubles pair.
“It was a great feeling. I’ve honestly never felt at such a high in my life playing tennis,” Erickson said. “I burst into happy tears right when we were done.”
Litchfield senior Ryanna Steinhaus, competing in No. 1 singles against Delano’s Bella Molitor, had a comeback effort that fell short.
After dropping set one, 6-4, Steinhaus trailed Molitor 4-1 in the second set and battled to force a seven-point tiebreaker. Molitor went on to secure a two-set victory with a 7-5 win in the tiebreak.
“Ry is a real tough competitor. I never think she is ever out of a match,” Draeger said. “I’m just so proud of the way she competes.”
Litchfield, the top seed, opens Section 6A team tournament play at 4 p.m. on Thursday when it is host to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, the No. 8 seed.
“I think our biggest goal is to go to the state tournament,” Palmer said of a Litchfield team that finished in second place at state in 2021. “Delano is a good team to play, so it sets us up good for sections to play our best.”
The semifinals and finals for 6A are Tuesday, Oct. 11 at the Rogers Tennis Club. At stake is a berth in the Class A state tournament Oct. 25 at the Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center in Minneapolis.
Delano 5, Litchfield 2
(1) Bella Molitor, D, def. Ryanna Steinhaus 6-4 7-6 (7-5) … (2) Aubrey Wittwer, D, def. Karlee Prahl 6-2 6-2 … (3) Kaitlyn Pink, D, def. Isla Dille 6-2 6-2 … (4) Kaitlyn Palmer, L, def. Maddy Meister 6-3 6-2
(1) Lauren Erickson/Olivia Olson, L, def. Addie Persian/Katelyn Ring 7-5 6-1 … (2) Gretta Persian/Emily Dreger, D, def. Sophie Stilwell/Trinity Hawes 6-4 6-4 … (3) Allie Semeizer/Sydney Trautman, D, def. Amelia Benson/Emma Anderson 6-4 3-6 6-3