Junior Paige Johnson and senior Rebekah Tuchscherer led the Milbank Area Lady Bulldogs with a top-10 finish at the state girls tennis tournament last weekend in Brandon Valley and Sioux Falls.
Johnson earned ninth place at number three singles with a 10-6 consolation championship victory over Rapid City Central. “She did an exceptional job starting at game 12 of the match,” commented head girls tennis coach Jim Dahl. “Leading 6-5, Paige began to stroke a more aggressive, deeply placed approach shot and kept her opponent behind the baseline more often. She won four of the last five games of a very tight matchup to seal the title and reach the awards stand.” Johnson finished her season with a favorable 15-9 record. She also earned a big win over Yankton in singles and Pierre in doubles, who were just behind the Bulldogs in team points. Johnson also secured a win over her Brookings opponent in the consolation semi-finals. She led the team with 42 points over the three-day event.
Johnson and Tuchscherer teamed up at number two doubles and landed in 10th place. They fell 10-4 to Brandon Valley in the consolation championship. “Brandon Valley got out early and really kept our girls from gaining any momentum,” noted Dahl. “They were quite aggressive at the net and kept their ground strokes deep, making it difficult for us to turn the momentum.”
The duo had a tough hard-fought loss in the first round of championship play, but recovered to win their second match of the tournament. The doubles team defeated Aberdeen Central and Huron Friday to advance to the consolation championship match.
In their match with Huron, the duo found themselves down 0-3 before they came back to win five games in a row. The teams see-sawed back and forth but Milbank Area trailed 7-9. The duo stormed back to win the last four games and seal the win. “What great tennis action by these girls,” exclaimed Dahl. “I could not have been prouder. How good it was for our program to have girls competing late into Saturday’s play in the state tourney.” Johnson and Tuchscherer finished the season with a 12-8 record. “This is a very strong record for that level of competition,” said Dahl.
Milbank Area placed 14th in the team standings with 100 points. All six players contributed to the team scoring for the Lady Bulldogs. Following Johnson’s 42 points, Tuchscherer added 25, Sarah Jarman, 13; Tatiana Stemsrud, 10; Jamie DeVaal, six, and Cara Berkner, four. “I am very proud of this team for reaching their potential and our goals this season,” noted Dahl. “Praise to the seniors, Cara Berkner and Rebekah Tuchscherer for their leadership and being a positive example for the girls.”
Starting out the tournament Thursday, Berkner and Stemsrud had a good 10-8 win over Pierre at number one doubles. “They played well above the level they were playing a month ago,” noted Dahl. “It was fun to watch.” Tuchscherer and Jarman each won two matches the opening day of play, as did the team of DeVaal and Jarman.
All six players competed again on Friday. Along with Johnson and Tuchscherer, Stemsrud had a nice singles match with her Aberdeen Central opponent at number two singles. “Even though she lost 10-11 (5), she nearly beat her opponent that had twice beaten her during the regular season,” stated Dahl. “She came closer each time and ever so close to getting a huge win.”
Tuchscherer battled her opponent from Sioux Falls O’Gorman at number four singles, but fell 7-10. Dahl explained there were three deuce games that were so close to going Tuchscherer’s way. “What an effort it was at persevering and battling to the end under adverse conditions,” mentioned Dahl.
Jarman and DeVaal ended their doubles season at the number three spot to Watertown. “They gained valuable experience in their first state tourney that will certainly strengthen our team next season,” said Dahl.
The team was assisted by Abbey Trapp and Steve Stemsrud. “They did an outstanding job this season and deserve a great deal of credit for helping the girls along in the journey,” Dahl expressed. “The fan base and their enthusiasm at the state tournament was outstanding. It was very nice to have so many of the families there to support the girls. We have come to expect that in our program. Thanks to the parents, grandparents, family and friends.”
Dahl also expressed his gratitude to Larry and Loretta Cantine for their support as well as MACTA and president Kevin Cantine for all they do promoting tennis in Milbank. “A special thank you to the city of Milbank and Jason Kettwig for getting the courts and ground around it up to a very respectable level,” said Dahl.
Following are the complete results for each player:
No. 1 singles – Cara Berkner fell to Michelle Johnson, Huron, 6-2, 6-1; fell to Emily Magera, Aberdeen Central, 10-2.
No. 2 singles – Tatiana Stemsrud fell to Mimi Garcia, Yankton, 6-3, 6-3; defeated Shelby Weig, Aberdeen Roncalli, 10-7; dropped to Brianna Conn, Aberdeen Central, 11-10 (5).
No. 3 singles – Paige Johnson fell to Allison Weidenbach, Sioux Falls Roosevelt, 6-3, 6-4; defeated Sophie Kourl, Yankton, 10-2; won over Abby Enevoldsen, Brookings, 10-6; lost to Marianna Robidoux, Rapid City Central, 10-6.
No. 4 singles – Rebekah Tuchscherer defeated Karen Ly, Rapid City Central, 6-2, 6-1; fell to Ava Leonard, Sioux Falls Lincoln, 6-2, 6-0; won over Shinayne Whipple, Vermillion, 10-0; lost to Ellie Asfora, Sioux Falls O’Gorman, 10-7.
No. 5 singles – Jamie DeVaal fell to Kalen Day, Aberdeen Roncalli, 6-4, 6-4; lost to Marissa Moeller, Mitchell, 10-7.
No. 6 singles – Sarah Jarman defeated Olivia Tennant, Yankton, 0-6, 6-1, 12-10; fell to Jaden Elliott, Rapid City Stevens, 6-0, 6-0; won over Emily Toms, Rapid City Central, 10-1; lost to Morgan Wray, Madison, 10-1.
No. 1 doubles – Berkner/Stemsrud fell to Aberdeen Central, 7-6 (5), 6-3; defeated Pierre, 10-8; fell to Brookings, 10-7.
No. 2 doubles – Johnson/Tuchscherer fell to Pierre, 6-4, 6-4; defeated Vermillion, 10-1; downed Aberdeen Central, 10-6; won over Huron 11-9; lost to Brandon Valley, 10-4.
No. 3 doubles – DeVaal/Jarman defeated Yankton, 6-3, 6-1; fell to Rapid City Stevens, 6-0, 6-1; won over Aberdeen Roncalli, 10-6; lost to Watertown, 10-1.
Team scores – St. Thomas More, 639; SF O’Gorman, 592; RC Stevens, 489; SF Lincoln, 400.5; Watertown, 350.5; SF Roosevelt, 316; Huron, 300; Brandon Valley, 298.5; Madison, 260; SF Washington, 233; Aberdeen Central, 181; Mitchell, 131; Brookings, 120; Milbank Area, 100; Yankton, 94; Pierre, 92; RC Central, 72; Aberdeen Roncalli, 66; Spearfish, 53; Harrisburg, 29; Vermillion, 0.