Litchfield will be well represented at the state tennis tournament again this year.
Last week, the Dragons captured the Section 2A team championship by cruising past Holy Family (7-0) and LeSueur-Henderson (5-2) to earn a third consecutive trip to the state tournament.
On Monday, the Dragons had a pair of doubles teams advance to the State Class A tournament.
The pairing of Elise Bierbaum and Avery Stilwell claimed the section title with straight-sets wins in the semifinals and finals.
Bierbaum and Stilwell opened the tournament by beating the Annandale duo of Faith Millner and Ann Roberts 6-0, 6-1.
On the other side of the bracket, Litchfield teammates Vaida Behnke and Neriah Lara also beat an Annandale pair, Olivia Honsey and Faith Simon, 6-0, 6-3.
That set up an all-Litchfield championship match, the second consecutive year for such a competition.
Stilwell and Bierbaum came out on top, stopping Behnke and Lara 6-1, 6-3 to sweep into the state meet.
For Stilwell and Bierbaum, the return to individual competition at the state tournament will be a bit different this year. A year ago, Stilwell paired with then-senior Shanna Kinny to take second place in the tournament. Meanwhile, Bierbaum played in the singles tournament, where she earned a fourth-place finish.
Much of this season, Stilwell and Biebaum have formed the top tier of Litchfield’s singles lineup, with Stilwell positioned at No. 1 singles and Bierbaum at No. 2. But they meshed well in claiming the section doubles title Monday.
Stilwell and Bierbaum claiming the section title, however, put their teammates in the unenviable position of having to play a third match Monday.
After losing in the finals, Behnke and Lara were forced to play a true second match against the Annandale team of Millner and Roberts, who had lost to Stilwell and Bierbaum in straight sets in the semifinals.
The Litchfield duo started slowly, losing the first set 4-6, but seemed to get stronger as the match went on. Behnke and Lara took the second set 6-3, and sealed their trip to state by winning the third set 6-0.
Behnke has experience in the state doubles tournament, also, having paired with Laney Huhner last season to reach the consolation finals at state. For Lara, the individual portion of the state tournament will be a new experience.
However, all four from Litchfield have state tournament experience as members of the Dragons team that finished second at state last season.
Litchfield also had two singles players compete in the section tournament. Senior Alyssa Ross earned an impressive 6-0, 6-0 victory over Taylor Hillestad of Redwood Valley in the first round, but her individual season came to an end in the quarterfinals, where she fell to Ally Agerland of Holy Family 6-1, 6-0. Agerland went on to finish second and advance to the state tournament.
Sophomore Britney Prahl was the Dragons’ other singles representative. She fell to Cecily Cronin of Holy Family 6-4, 6-2. Cronin advanced to the seminfinals before losing and wound up with third place in the section after losing the true second match to Agerland.
The State Class A Tennis Tournament opens with team competition Tuesday and Wednesday next week at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis. Litchfield will meet Minnewaska Area in the state quarterfinals at 2 p.m. Tuesday. If the Dragons win that matchup, they would play the winner of The Blake School/Thief River Falls quarterfinal match at 10 a.m. Wednesday. A loss would drop them into the consolation round where they would play at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The state finals, as well as third-place and consolation finals will be played Wednesday.
Team competition will be followed by the singles and doubles competition Oct. 24 and 25.