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Girls tennis: One last dance for Litchfield Dragons

Litchfield loses to Breck 4-3 in state semifinals, then beats Providence for third to end a successful run for Dragons’ seniors.

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Litchfield senior Emma Anderson hits the ball during a match against Breck in the semifinals round of the 2022 Class A state tournament on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune
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MINNEAPOLIS — In a rematch of the 2021 Class A state championship, the Litchfield girls' tennis team dropped its semifinals match against the Breck Mustangs at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center.

The Dragons, who lost to Breck 7-0 in last year's state championship, fell 4-3 against the Mustangs on Wednesday. Litchfield then beat Providence Academy 7-0 in the third-place match.

"I don't think we served very well. I thought that was maybe the difference," Litchfield head coach Matt Draeger said. "Our kids competed really well. We just came up a little short."

Ranked No. 1 in Class A in the latest Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association poll, Breck created its lineup in hopes of winning the No. 1 singles match and sweeping the doubles matches.

The Mustangs did just that. Isabelle Einess, ranked No. 1 Class A, defeated Litchfield senior Ryanna Steinhaus, 6-0, 6-0. All of Breck’s doubles pairings won in two sets.

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Litchfield falls short to Breck in the Class A state semifinals.

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Litchfield senior Ryanna Steinhaus jumps to hit the ball during a match against Breck in the semifinals round of the 2022 Class A state tournament on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

“They’re set up to win at one singles and all the doubles. That’s the way they’ve been winning all the way through the last month and we knew that going in,” Draeger said. “Things didn’t go our way, but that’s OK.”

Litchfield’s three points came from its singles players. Sophomore Karlee Prahl won at No. 2, eighth-grader Isla Dille won at No. 3 and senior Kaitlyn Palmer won at No. 4.

Prahl and Dille won their matches handily. Prahl won 6-2, 6-1. Dille took her match, 6-1, 6-1.

Palmer, who joined forces with senior teammate Sophie Stilwell in the quarterfinals, returned to No. 4 singles, a place she has spent the majority of the season. Palmer took her match, winning 6-7 (8), 6-4 and 10-3 in the second tiebreak.

“She’s a really tough kid, who’s very level-headed. She’s built for these moments,” Draeger said. “If you ever watch Kaitlyn, you never know if she’s winning or losing. That’s a good trait we want all our tennis players to have. She stays positive and true to herself during matches.”

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Litchfield senior Kaitlyn Palmer hits the ball during a match against Breck in the semifinals round of the 2022 Class A state tournament on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

After their loss to Breck, the Dragons’ focus shifted away from chasing a third-place medal to their senior group.

Litchfield has 11 seniors on its 15-player roster. Many of them are set to play the final matches of their high school careers.

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“This match against Providence Academy is their last time playing together,” said an emotional Draeger, as tears crawled down his face. “They’ve enjoyed playing together. This is going to be fun, whether we win or lose.

“I told them all to go out there with smiles on their faces and see what happens. When you get to this point, it’s not about the medals or the loss, it’s about having fun with your buddies. They’re going to remember this forever.”

Litchfield has seven seniors in its 10-player lineup. A third-place finish at state would be the cherry on top for the Dragons who have made it to the final day at state for a sixth-consecutive season.

“It would mean a lot to us,” Palmer said. “A lot of us have been playing together since seventh grade. … We’ve just grown to love each other. We love playing with each other and we know we can count on each other.”

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Litchfield senior Amelia Benson serves the ball during a match against Breck in the semifinals round of the 2022 Class A state tournament on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

Class A semifinals

Breck 4, Litchfield 3

Singles
(1) Isabelle Einess, B, def. No. 1 Ryanna Steinhaus 6-0 6-0 … (2) Karlee Prahl, L, def. Belae Huss 6-2 6-1 … (3) Isla Dille, L, def. Quinn Dougherty 6-1 6-1 … (4) Kaitlyn Palmer, L, def. Lily Ahluwalia 6-7(8) 6-4 10-3

Doubles
(1) Petra Lyon/Witt Mehbod, B, def. Lauren Erickson/Olivia Olson 7-6(5) 6-0 … (2) Amelia Bras/Ava Jaffe, B, def. Sophie Stilwell/Trinity Hawes 6-3 6-2 … (3) Emily Lin/Sarah Fishbein, B, def. Amelia Benson/Emma Anderson 6-3 6-4

Class A 3rd-place match

Litchfield 7, Providence Academy 0

In the last dance for Litchfield’s seniors, the Dragons dominated Providence Academy to take third place in the 2022 Class A state tournament.

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Litchfield conceded two sets across its seven matches in the sweep.

Prahl at the No. 2 won her match 4-6, 6-4 and 10-2 in a tiebreaker. Seniors Amelia Benson and Emma Anderson also completed a comeback at No. 3 doubles with a 1-6, 7-5 and 10-1 victory.

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Michael Lyne joined the West Central Tribune as a sports reporter in May 2022, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he graduated with a bachelors degree in journalism and a minor degree in Spanish studies.

You may reach Michael at mlyne@wctrib.com, or by calling (320) 214-4345.
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