FAIRMONT - Not even the neon green of the tennis ball stood out on the third singles court as the final match ended during the nonconference dual meet between the United South Central Rebels and Fairmont Cardinals girls teams on Monday at the Cardinal Courts in Fairmont.
With the team score tied at 3-3, it was up to the Rebels' Kia Legred and Fairmont's Allison Moeller to decide the outcome in a third set.
After Moeller ground out a 6-3 first-set victory, Legred battled back for a 6-3 second-set win.
STEPPING INTO?IT — Fairmont second doubles player Shantel Quist connects on a forehand return during nonconference tennis action against United South Central on Monday at the Cardinal Courts in Fairmont. (Photo by Kjestine Steinbring)
As the sun went down, Moeller and Legred traded games throughout the third set, just as they had during the opening two frames, extending the match to a tiebreaker.
Legred outlasted Moeller in the final set, claiming the 7-6 (9-11) decision to seal the Rebels' 4-3 team victory.
"I knew coming in that USC would be tough. I saw their record (7-0) and that they had beaten Luverne," said Fairmont head coach Kathy Krezel. "They only lost two seniors from last year's team, still I thought that if we went out and played well with them, they were beatable."
The Rebels rattled off three opening victories in the singles bracket to take the early lead.
USC senior Claire Christian, who reached the semifinals in the consolation bracket of the Class A state individual meet last season, downed Fairmont senior Aubrey Green in straight sets at the No. 1 singles position, 6-0, 6-3.
"I thought even though Claire was a tough player for Aubrey to face, it was a good challenge for her today," said Krezel. "She is our top singles player and is very smart, so she can make adjustments as the match progresses. But she will see every team's best player, so I thought this was a good way for her to start out with a tough match."
Julia Stenzel then held Cardinal sophomore Ellie Tonder to just two game wins in a 6-1, 6-1 fourth singles victory.
Linsey Thisius then gave the Rebels a 3-0 match lead with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Missy Viesselman at No. 2 singles.
It wasn't until Sophie Shelgren and Abby Fitzgerald walked off of the No. 1 doubles court that the Cardinals had their first match win.
Shelgren and Fitzgerald teamed up to beat Joyce Rubio and Angela Bixby, 6-4, 6-4.
Trailing in the first set 4-3 and down 40-love with Shelgren at the service line, the Fairmont top doubles duo mounted a comeback. Shelgren sent four straight serves past the Rebels. Shelgren and Fitzgerald then combined to win the next two points to even the match at 4-4.
From there, the No. 1 doubles team won the next two games and claimed the opening set.
"I am very pleased with how our doubles teams played today. I think before we've been pretty strong on the singles side, but our doubles hasn't always been that way," said Krezel. "I was especially excited to see the way that these doubles teams are playing together with just a few matches on the court as a team."
Again, the Rebels jumped out to the early lead in the second set. But this time, with Fitzgerald at the service line for Fairmont, the tandem again found a way to win.
After serving for eight deuces in the long game, an errant backhand by the Rebel returner gave the Cardinals a 4-3 edge in the match that they wouldn't relenquish.
Shortly after Shelgren and Fitzgerald cleared their court, the Cardinals' No. 2 doubles team of Shantel Quist and Jill Paris sealed their two-set win.
Quist and Paris handed Leah Meyer and Emma Barnd a 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) loss for the Cardinals' second victory in the meet.
Seniors Andrea Carstensen and Briana Gratz then completed the doubles sweep for Fairmont with a 1-6, 6-0, 7-5 win at third doubles.
After losing the first set, Carstensen and Gratz rebounded to shut out the Rebels in the second set. With the match tied at 4-4 in the third set, Gratz held her serve to take the 5-4 lead.
"In those critical and stressful moments of matches when you go out to talk to players as a coach, you try to be helpful and mention basic things and try to help them relax," said Krezel. "Those moments are stressful or nerve-racking enough and you try to just help them calm down. From there, the players did a great job tonight of not giving up in any match."
From there, the senior doubles team would not trail, taking the third set 7-5 to tie the team score at 3-3.
Fairmont (2-1) plays host to Martin County West at 6 p.m. today.
USC 4, Fairmont 3
Singles: Claire Christian (USC) d. Aubrey Green, 6-0, 6-3. Linsey Thisius (USC) d. Missy Viesselman, 7-5, 6-2. Kia Legred (USC) d. Allison Moeller, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(9-11). Julia Stenzel (USC) d. Ellie Tonder, 6-1, 6-1.
Doubles: Sophie Shelgren-Abby Fitzgerald (F) d. Joyce Rubio-Angela Bixby, 6-4, 6-4. Jill Paris-Shantel Quist (F) d. Leah Meyer-Emma Barnd, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5). Andrea Carstensen-Briana Gratz (F) d. Carly Weber-Veronica Schindler, 1-6, 6-0, 7-5.
USC 4, Fairmont 0
Doubles: Wendy Martinez Haley Olson (USC) d. Lauren Carlson-Hayley Fogelson, 6-3. Deanna Shellen-Rubie Cuevas (USC) d. Kaitlynn Cihoski-Jojo Kelley 6-5. Adrianna Soto-Nicol Cuevas (USC) d. Emily O'Connor-Chloe Graif, 6-2. Kelly Neubauer-Madison Logering (USC) d. Sydney Hainy-Morgan Cihoski, 6-0.
Blue Earth Area 6, Belle Plaine 1 - The Bucs swept the singles bracket to help engineer a 6-1 non-league victory over the Tigers on Monday in Belle Plaine.
Karleigh Wolff outslugged Ashley Morrison at No. 1 singles, 7-5, 6-2, before Buc teammate Kaitlyn Olsen defeated Jane Schneider at the No. 2 spot in the lineup, 6-2, 6-4.
Lindsey Prokop split her third singles match's first two sets with Belle Plaine's Ireland Lambrecht, 4-6 and 6-2, before claiming a decisive tiebreaker by a 10-5 score.
Anikka Wilhelmi completed Blue Earth Area's singles sweep via earning a 6-2, 6-4 decision over Grace Olson at the No. 4 position in the bracket.
Karli Olsen and Natali Fellows combined court skills at No. 1 doubles to best Meghan Gavin and Rachel Schroers in back-to-back 6-3 sets.
Beka Krussow and Paige Darrington then outlasted Savanna Schatz and Abby Brandt, 6-4, 7-5, at second doubles to cap the Bucs' scoring.
Bailey Gavin and Kate Schmit collected the Tigers' only team tally by edging Kali Viland and Annaliese Klinkner, 6-3, 6-2, at third doubles.
Blue Earth Area (5-1) travels to Sherburn on Wednesday for a 4:30 p.m. dual meet against Martin County West.