GRAND FORKS – Broken finger and all, Sammie Smith and West Fargo are playing for the state championship.
Smith, playing with a broken left thumb, beat the West Region singles champion Caitlin Bakke 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 in the decisive fifth match to lift the Packers to a 3-2 win over Bismarck St. Mary’s in the North Dakota state team semifinals.
It marks the first trip to the state team championship for West Fargo, which will take on 11-time defending state champ Grand Forks Red River at 10:30 a.m. today.
“I think I have an ulcer,” West Fargo coach Chad Anderson joked Thursday night after the Packers completed two down-to-the-wire victories.
But the nervous moments started long before Thursday for Anderson and the Packers.
Smith suffered a broken thumb during her last match of the East Region individual tournament while trying to catch a serve during warm-ups. Smith, West Fargo’s top player, finished that match, but Anderson was unsure she would be able to play this weekend at state.
“There was always doubt in my mind,” he said. “But there was never any doubt in Sammie’s mind. When I talked to her and her parents, it was never a question whether she was going to play. They just wanted to make sure to get something done so she can play.”
Smith played with a split on her thumb, which forced her to adjust her game. She usually hits a two-handed backhand, but she had to learn how to hit a one-hander during the week of practice.
“I practiced it a lot,” Smith said. “It actually lessens the nerves. It gives me something to focus on.”
Smith adapted remarkably well. She won her first match of the day over Bismarck Century’s Courtney Brackin 6-0, 6-2, then knocked off Bakke for the first time in her career. Previously, Smith was 0-2 against Bakke, who won her second straight West Region singles crown last week.
Using an unusual game plan to attack Bakke’s forehand, Smith rallied for a three-set victory, getting stronger as the match progressed.
“Let’s just say that her thumb is hurting her,” Anderson said. “Sammie is a trooper. She’s going to stick it out. She’s not going to complain. It just shows what kind of an athlete she is.
“I told her at the beginning of the match that the third time’s the charm. She had a really good game plan. Sammie played one heck of a match, a great strategic match.”
The Packers will have a tall order in front of them this morning, taking on a Roughriders team that cruised through the first day of the team tournament.
The Roughriders beat Bismarck 5-0 and Minot 4-1 to reach the team championship. Red River lost at No. 2 doubles against the Magicians – the first match it lost in a team setting all season.
Even so, the Roughriders easily moved on to the team finals thanks to dominate play from its top three singles players, Mimi Yunker, Cindy Lim and Maddie Anderson.
Red River beat West Fargo 9-0 during the regular season and 5-0 during the East Region team tournament. The Roughriders will be big favorites to win a 12th straight title today.
“But you never know what can happen,” Smith said.
GF Red River 5,
Bismarck High 0
1. Yunker, RR, over Oberlander 7-6, 6-2; 2. Lim, RR, over Andre 6-1, 6-2; 3. Anderson, RR, over Well 6-1, 6-0
1. Marasinghe/Caoili, RR, over Dodd/Andre 6-1, 6-0; 2. Relling/Larsen, RR, over Schumaier/Steffes 6-1, 6-2
Valley City 2
1. Dodin, M, over Olson 6-3, 6-4; 2. Sherven, M, over Wendel 6-2, 6-3; 3. Ingstad, VC, over Klein 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
1. Coit/Gilbertson, VC, over Wilson/Coggins 6-4, 6-4; 2. Collins/Sessions, M, over Winkler/Fulton 6-3, 6-7, 6-3
Bismarck St. Mary’s 4,
Fargo Davies 1
1. Bakke, BSM, over Poppe 6-0, 6-0; 2. Beck, BSM, over Stevens 6-0, 6-2; 3. Roller, BSM, over Forknell 6-1, 6-0
1. McGuigan/Heidi Wanzek, FD, over Benz/K. Malaktaris 6-7, 7-6, 6-4; 2. Kruman/Brucker, BSM, over McGregor/Pooja Chemiti 6-4, 5-7, 6-3
West Fargo 3,
Bismarck Century 2
1. Smith, WF, over Brackin 6-0, 6-2; 2. Wolf, BC, over Stock 6-7, 6-3, 6-2; 3. Baasch, WF, over Fettig 6-4, 6-4
1. Stein/Freder, WF, over Dickson/Grinsteiner 5-7, 6-4, 7-5; 2. Erickson/Steppler, BC, over Christenson/Binde 6-3, 6-3
GF Red River 4,
1. Yunker, RR, over Coggins 6-0, 6-2; 2. Lim, RR, over Collins 6-1, 6-0; 3. Anderson, RR, over Klein 6-1, 6-2
1. Marasinghe/Caoili, RR, over Dodin/Wilson 6-0, 6-2; 2. Sherven/Sessions, M, over Relling/Larsen 6-2, 1-6, 6-2
West Fargo 3,
Bismarck St. Mary’s 2
1. Smith, WF, over Bakke 5-7, 7-5, 6-3; 2. Beck, BSM, over Christensen 6-2, 6-0; 3. Roller, BSM, over Wolff 6-0, 6-0
1. Stock/Baasch, WF, over Krumm/Malaktaris 6-4, 6-4; 2. Stein/Freden, WF, over Benz/Mahrer 6-3, 6-2
Bismarck High 3,
Valley City 2
1. Oberlander, BHS, over Winkler 6-0, 6-1; 2. Dodd, BHS, over Wendel 6-0, 6-1; 3. L. Andre, BHS, over Ingstad 6-4, 6-2
1. Coit/Gilbertson, VC, over Schumaier/Steffes 6-2, 6-2; 2. Fulton/Olson, VC, over J. Andre/Well 6-2, 6-4
Bismarck Century 3,
Fargo Davies 1
1. Wanzek, FD, over Brackin 6-3, 6-1; 2. Wolf, BC, over Poppe 6-0, 6-2; 3. Dickson, BC, over Stevens 3-6, 6-1, 6-2
1. Fettig/Grinsteiner, BC, over
Stevens/McGuigan 7-5, 6-4; 2. McGregor/Chemiti, FD, over Stoppler/Elhardt 6-4, 6-2
Red River vs. West Fargo, 10:30 a.m., Choice
Minot vs. Bismarck St. Mary’s, 9 a.m., Choice
Bismarck High vs. Bismarck Century, 9 a.m., Register
Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald
Tags: high school sports, sports, updates, tennis, girls, packers
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