Pirates upset by Perham/New York Mills in Section 8A semifinal
The two pangs of heartbreak came at almost exactly the same time.
On the No. 1 doubles court, Catherine Tiedemann's shot went long, giving Perham's Kendra Morris and LaVonne Lindberg the win. Just seconds later on a court 50 feet away, Jaden Hackel was hugging her teammates, celebrating her victory over Hannah Lindemoen at No. 4 singles.
And just like that, Crookston's season was over.
The No. 1 seeded Pirates came into Thursday's Section 8A semifinal match looking to punch their ticket to the championship against Thief River Falls. All season long, those two had looked like the top teams in the section. The Pirates and Prowlers had each beaten each other once already, and seemed destined to meet on Oct. 13 for a third, and deciding, time.
But it will be Perham/New York Mills — the No. 4 seed and a team Crookston beat 6-1 on Sept. 3 — that will play for the title instead after a 4-3 upset win in Crookston on a grueling Thursday afternoon.
"No qualms about the day," said coach Cody Brekken. "The girls came out, they battled tough and Perham brought their game today. Up and down the lineup, Perham played really well. ... Once the match remains close longer, we're the higher seed, the pressure's on. Just got tense and we couldn't close out any of the close ones."
To Brekken, the 6-1 scoreline one month ago was more misleading than an encouraging sign. In reality, it was much closer — three individual matches went to a third set or a tiebreaker.
This time, the Yellowjackets, not Crookston, came out on top when the margins were thinnest.
"They played a lot more consistent this go-around," Brekken said. "When we played them last time, they were not hanging in in long points, and they did this time. Some of that is us to trying to be a little too tentative and not aggressive. You just gotta go out there and play your same game, and be really aggressive."
The Pirates went with the same lineup they did in Monday's opening round win against Parkers Prairie, and in the early going, it worked. Hayden Winjum and Halle Winjum cruised to straight-set wins at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively, while Emma Gunderson and Emma Osborn methodically put away the Yellowjackets' No. 2 doubles duo in two sets.
But it was the lower spots in Perham's lineup that stepped up Thursday. Mallory Belka jumped on Brekken Tull from the get-go at No. 3 singles, dropping just two games during the win. Grayce Mickelson and Maya Radniecki then beat Halle Bruggeman and Macy Fee, setting up the last two matches — No. 1 doubles and No. 4 singles — as deciding.
Tiedemann and Abby Borowicz won the first set in a tiebreaker before dropping the second, 7-5. They then led, 4-1, in the third set, but Lindberg and Morris just wouldn't go away, winning the next two points and finally tying the match at the last possible moment, 6-6, forcing one last tiebreaker to seven.
"We went on there right away and we had the confidence," Tiedemann said. "It was there, we were ready to play hard, and play strong."
But it wasn't to be. The Yellowjackets pulled ahead in the late stages to win, 7-5, and tie the match momentarily at three. Then, Hackel — who had lost 6-2, 6-0 to Lindemoen the last time the two teams played — got her revenge on the biggest stage, wrapping up a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 win.
So instead of addressing his team after a 12th win in 13 duals; instead of giving his team an early pep-talk for Tuesday's title bout, Brekken stood in the center of a group of 20-something girls — many with tears in their eyes and on their cheeks — and could only fall back on everything the Pirates had gone through to get here in the first place.
"Starting with very little practice time, they couldn't really hit any over the summer," Brekken said. "Kind of a really weird year, but very memorable. And you can use this as a teaching tool, too. You tell the young girls how fast it will feel like this ended because you never take any of these for granted. You know what it takes to get there, we just need to execute and kind of push forward. Let's remember this and move on and get ready for what's next."
UP NEXT: Perham/New York Mills will go to Thief River Falls on Tuesday, Oct. 13 to play for the Section 8A Championship. Crookston's season ends with an 11-2 record.
The Pirates lose two seniors from the varsity roster: Emma Borowicz and Tiedemann, a pair that made it to the state doubles championship two years in a row. Borowicz (who was still dealing with the effects of a knee injury suffered last basketball season) and Tiedemann competed together only once this season, though, winning against Detroit Lakes on Sept. 22.
Tiedemann summed up the feeling of walking off the court for the final time in one word — "terrible" — before continuing.
"Really nostalgic," she said. "I've been playing since seventh grade, and I couldn't have asked for anything more. It's sad, but tears of joy."
While Tiedemann and Borowicz will depart, the nucleus of Crookston's roster will return in 2021. Hayden Winjum, Lindemoen and Osborn will lead as seniors, while Borowicz, Bruggeman and Fee will be juniors and Halle Winjum, Tull and Gunderson will be sophomores.
"They're gonna be a hell of a team," Tiedemann said. "They're gonna be really good, I can just tell. There's a lot of chemistry on the team, everyone's friends, and I just think they're gonna do really good things in the future and they could get to that championship next year. And hopefully there's state, and they could go."
- No. 1 singles: Hayden Winjum (Crookston) def. Kiera Radniecki 6-2, 6-3
- No. 2 singles: Halle Winjum (Crookston) def. Avery Beachy 6-1, 6-2
- No. 3 singles: Mallory Belka (Perham) def. Brekken Tull 6-2, 6-0
- No. 4 singles: Jaden Hackel (Perham) def. Hannah Lindemoen 7-5, 4-6, 6-4
- No. 1 doubles: Kendra Morris and LaVonne Lindberg (Perham) def. Abby Borowicz and Catherine Tiedemann 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5)
- No. 2 doubles: Emma Gunderson and Emma Osborn (Crookston) def. Katie Johnson and Maggie Trites 6-4, 6-4
- No. 3 doubles: Grayce Mickelson and Maya Radniecki (Perham) def. Halle Bruggeman and Macy Fee 6-4, 6-4
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