Emily Johnson, Andrea Wang, and Mandy Ehrlich make finals in the Regional tournament to propel the Rangers to States

Jeremy James, Sports Reporter

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A year after earning 18 points in the regional tournament to qualify for the state tournament, the girls varsity tennis team squeaked by once again and scored 19 points to earn a spot in the state tournament once again.

Junior Mandy Ehrlich at 2 singles, junior Andrea Wang at 3 singles, and sophomore Emily Johnson at 4 singles all upset East Grand Rapids in the semi-finals and all collected three points for the team. Every other flight did their jobs as well, all gaining 2 points for the Rangers. The Rangers either needed to place first or second overall or total 18 points as a team to make it to states; with Forest Hills Northern and East Grand Rapids in their region, placing in the top two looked like a difficult task.

Mandy, Andrea, and Emily all defeated very tough competitors from East Grand Rapids in their singles flights. Andrea fell down early 4-1 in the first set, but her defense frustrated her opponent and evened the score at 4-4. Then after two tough games, Andrea won the set 6-4 and had momentum on her side going into the second set. She won the set  6-3 to defeat East Grand Rapids’ 3 singles and move on to the finals against Forest Hills Northern. With the win, she earned the 17th point for the Rangers, moving them one point closer to qualifying for the state tournament.

Mandy’s match against EGR’s Halley Elliott was a battle. Halley, who won her flight last year in Regionals, came out playing well and not making many errors; Mandy lost the first set to her 6-2. In the second set, both of the girls were hitting winners and games were back and forth; however, Mandy took control of the set and won it 6-3. The third set was similar to the second, except for the fact both were fatigued from the long match. Mandy, who is still suffering from an ankle injury, usually likes points and sets to be quick so she doesn’t have to run and work a lot on the hurt ankle. This third set and match were not like that, but she pushed through the injury to defeat Halley 6-3 and earn the 18th and state-clinching point for the Rangers.

Emily fell down early like Andrea and Mandy but pulled out some tough games and won the first set 7-5, then the next set 6-2. While the point didn’t technically matter to make the state tournament, the win for Emily was big for state seeding, confidence, along with playing and winning against tough competition and getting her ready for the state tournament.

The other flights, especially the doubles, played well to get to the semi-finals. Some of them struggled in earlier round matches, and those wins were just as important as the singles players who won their semi-final matches. Junior Courtney Fox and senior Myah Leavenworth at 3 doubles were a part of one of the tough earlier round matches. Against Lowell in the quarter-finals, Courtney and Myah lost the first set 7-5, which was uncharacteristic for a Ranger flight against a Lowell team that got swept by the Rangers earlier in the year. After the sluggish first set, though, Courtney and Myah dug in and started winning more points and games. They won the second set 6-1 and then the third set 6-2.

Sophomores Mina Siebert and Olivia Hooper at 4 doubles also had a tough quarter-finals match against Byron Center. After being up 3-2 in the first set, they got double flipped to go down 4-3. After a double flip by the Rangers, though, they led 5-4, but Byron Center answered right back to take the lead 6-5. At 30-30 the next game, Byron Center missed an overhead into the net in maybe the most critical point of the match up to that point. Mina and Olivia won the next point to force a seven-point tiebreak where they won 7-2. The second set was almost just as difficult. One game away from winning the match at 5-3, Byron Center won the next two games to tie it at 5-5; however, Mina and Olivia once again won clutch points to win the next two games and win the set 7-5.

At 1, 2, and 3 doubles the Rangers had to play Forest Hills Northern in the semi-finals. Each of the flights for the Rangers lost due to the already solid Northern doubles flights playing better than they usually do.

Freshman Libby Moog at 1 singles had the toughest job of any of the other Ranger players, playing in the best spot. She still made it to the semi-finals, though, after earning a bye and beating Cedar Springs.

The team as a whole and players individually had a successful day; after starting the day being thought of as missing the cut by a couple of points, the Rangers showed the region what they’re made of. They won matches they were supposed to, played tough in matches they were supposed to lose, and maybe most importantly won a few matches they weren’t expected to. By totaling 19 points on the day, the team earned its way to the State tournament which will be played on May 31 and June 1.

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