Based on the regular-season match, Thursday's rematch between the Northfield and Owatonna girls tennis teams in the Section 1AA tournament was always destined to be tightly-contested.
The match was close again, and finished with the same 4-3 scoreline, only with the Huskies finishing on the victorious side Thursday afternoon.
“Unfortunately we came up one short," Northfield coach Mark Johnson said. "We kind of figured it would be another 4-3er and this time Owatonna got that fourth one.”
Like it has for much of the season, Northfield swept the three doubles matches.
That started at the No. 1 position, where sophomore Gabbi Grant and Courtney Graff eased to a 6-1, 6-2 victory.
“Courtney and Gabbi have been terrific at one doubles all year," Johnson said. "They finished 12-1 at that spot and just are really solid sophomores.”
Seniors Annika Richardson and Solvei Christopherson then provided a relatively stress-free 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 2 doubles before the No. 3 duo of seniors Lynette Ott and Jenna Woitalla pulled out a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 win.
“They started playing together about six, seven matches ago and really help make our team better," Johnson said about Woitalla and Ott. "A great win for them as well.”
The Raiders were unable to find the required singles point, however. At No. 2 singles, senior Caroline Ash lost 6-1, 6-2 and sophomore Izzy Balvin faltered 6-3, 6-3 at No. 4 singles.
At No. 3 singles, sophomore Marie Labenski battled through a 6-4, 6-3 defeat.
“She just came up short," Johnson said. "She hopped into some singles play for us this year and has been really strong for us there.”
Then, at No. 1 singles, senior Libby Brust endured a grueling 6-4, 6-3 defeat.
“She’s been around for five years," Johnson said. "She really battled with multiple 100-hit rallies and it was so hard to win a point. She ended up losing in straight sets, but the match was two-plus hours long, so she battled.
“The bottom line is I’ve got 12 great seniors," Johnson added. "They knew their roles, a tight group of kids that really had a successful season as we’ve talked about. It was a special season. We finished third in the Big 9 behind Mayo and Century, and that’s quite an accomplishment in a conference with some darn good tennis. This was another special group, and really a first-class group of student athletes.”