The Detroit Lakes girls tennis team started their season with a second place finish at the Highway 10 tournament held in Wadena and Staples Wednesday, Aug. 22.
The finish is a big step up from prior seasons in the year's first tournament, according to head coach Tanner Beauchman.
"In my seven-year run as head coach, I don't think we have placed higher than fourth or fifth in this tournament," he said. "Our singles players really delivered. All four players picked up first round wins. We had talked in practice about being mentally tough and I thought we did a great job in the singles matches. We went 5-0 in three set matches."
Detroit Lakes scored 40 points in a very tight race for the top spot in team standings. Defending champions Osakis tallied one more point to win with 41. Staples-Motley tied with DL scoring 40, followed by Perham with 39 points. Other teams competing were: ROCORI, Sartell-St. Stephen, Wadena-Deer Creek and Little Falls.
Shelby Busker won the No. 2 singles flight with two of those matches coming in three set victories - the final coming with big drama.
"In my opinion, Shelby's performance in the final was legendary," said Beauchman.
Busker made an epic comeback to get the win losing a tight first set 7-6 and falling behind 5-0 in the second set.
"It looked like the match was about done, but Shelby just kept battling," Beauchman said. "There is no clock in tennis, so if you are still on the court, you have a chance. Game by game she battled her way back into the set. She fought off four match points on her way to winning seven straights games and the second set."
Busker had to go the distance in the third set as well winning 7-5 to take home the title.
"Every tennis coach has a story about a crazy comeback they witnessed and they use it to motivate their players to fight until the end," said Beauchman. "I will be referencing Shelby's match for a long time."
Brina Smith placed fourth at No. 1 singles, and No. 3 Josey Allen and No. 4 Ari Leitheiser both were runners-up in their flights.
"I was really proud of Ari Leitheiser today," Beauchman said. "She played her first varsity match, and earned her first varsity victory. We have a senior dominated team, but Ari, a freshman, hasn't seemed intimidated to hit with our top varsity girls. She has been playing well in practice and it was nice to see her carry that over to her matches. Our older girls were really excited for Ari."
Siri Vagle and Makenna Duncan came a few points short of reaching the final of two-doubles. According to Beauchman, the duo had not played together before this year, but from a style point they can be a tricky team to beat. They might not hit a lot of balls past you, but you are going to have to hit a lot of balls to beat them. In singles, they are both players who can grind out matches with long rallies.
"I think they bring a bit of that to their doubles play as well," he said.
DL's top doubles duo of Emily Skjonsberg and Mary Nelmark placed fourth. The No. 3 team of Taylor Tucker and McKenna Burhans finished seventh.
Mya Anderson and Marit Engum played in the exhibition doubles tournament (No. 4 doubles).
"The exhibition did not count for team points which is too bad because Marit and Mya won the tournament," Beauchman said. "Marit and Mya played some tough teams including a tough Osakis team, who they beat 8-5. Marit and Mya will probably see some varsity time this year so it was promising to see them play well."
DL opens dual season with win over Fergus Falls
The Lakers took a two singles victories and a pair of doubles wins to down Fergus Falls 4-3 in a home dual opener Thursday, Aug. 22.
Busker made quick work of Leila Nasri 6-1, 6-1 at two-singles and Allen was efficient in a win over Ava Weber 6-4, 6-1.
DL's two and three doubles tandems continued on their success from the Highway 10 tournament. Vagle and Duncan defeated Mackenzie Krava and Elissa Lee four and one.
Engum and Anderson were one and two victors over Elizabeth Houge and Elizabeth Wickstrom.
Detroit Lakes (1-0) continues tournament action at Crookston Saturday, Aug. 24 at 9 a.m.