A simple text before the section tournament was the boost Courtney Boller needed.
The Pequot Lakes junior singles player was playing in her second Section 7-2A singles tournament. This time she was a No. 2 seed with a realistic shot of doing damage.
That despite being Pequot's No. 3 singles player all season. That didn't detour Boller from finishing second and advancing to her first state tournament.
But the process of getting Boller mentally ready to win took some time.
"Honestly, I didn't even think I would be playing in individuals this year so to even be playing was surreal," she said. "I didn't have that much confidence going in because I didn't do so well last year, but this year went a lot better."
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- Year: Junior
- School: Pequot Lakes
- Sport: Tennis
- Position: No. 3 singles player
- Highlights: Advanced to the Class 1A state singles tournament
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The process started in the South Subsection 7-1A tournament Oct. 11 where Boller blanked Pierz's Katelyn Smude 6-0, 6-0 and Crosby-Ironton's Loren Sabian in the opening two rounds. She gave up just one game against Pine City's Ella Sell before falling to Pine City's Lydia Adams 6-2, 6-3 in the subsection final.
"Courtney was happy with second at subsections because we knew Adams from Pine City was a really good player," Pequot head coach Monica Sergent said. "Then when we saw the brackets from the North and the set up I sent her a text and I told her, 'You have a great chance to go to state.' I wanted her to get into that mindset so she would be confident and go in with a winning mindset.
"Her mom said when she got that text from me she got a really big smile on her face. I just felt very confident in her ability even before we got up there."
During the Section 7-1A team tournament Oct. 15, Boller defeated Gianna Odella of Eveleth-Gilbert 6-0, 6-0 in the team semifinals to help the Patriots to a 4-3 victory.
That advanced Pequot to the team finals against Virginia where it lost 5-2.
Boller lost to Mary Skorich 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 at No. 3 singles. A day later, Boller rebounded and knocked off Skorich in the individual semifinals.
"I change the pace up a lot on my ball, but mostly it was my mental game that won it for me," Boller said. "I actually cried and I hugged all my friends and my parents. It felt so surreal. Just finally all my hard work paying off."
Said Sergent: "We had a good strategy going in, even the night before. That girl is a very solid player. It was close the night before and to play the same girl back-to-back like that is very challenging for both players when there is a lot on the line.
"It was tough for both of them so at that point a lot of it came down to mental toughness and who can stay the course with their consistency and their strategy. I was proud that Courtney was the one that came out on top."
That victory catapulted Boller into the Section 7 singles championship where she was bettered by Pine City's Adams again 6-2, 6-2.
Boller opened the tournament by defeating Brenna Bollins of Duluth Marshall 6-0, 6-2.
"That was just a great start to the day," Boller said. "It really boosted my confidence a lot. She was a good player. She wasn't bad at all. Just winning by that margin really boosted my confidence."
The three-year varsity veteran entered the Class 1A state individual tennis tournament Thursday with a 32-4 record. She lost both of her state matches to move to 32-6 and concludes her junior season with a career record of 71-12.
Her showing at the section tournament and advancing to state may have even lit a bigger fire for Boller to improve her game this coming offseason. She's already planning on practicing and playing a lot this summer. But Sergent said Boller made huge strides with all aspects of her game this year.
"She played well. She's very steady. She goes into her match very calm and she doesn't get rattled. I just told her: 'You have improved a lot. You've put a lot more pace on groundstrokes. Your ball placement has gotten a lot better.' And she's always been consistent. She's always been able to get to a lot of balls. She's very quick on the court. Her serve has gotten a lot harder this year. She's improved several aspects of her game.
"I wasn't really surprised she was able to be the runner-up and make it to state. I'm really proud of her. She's worked really hard."
Other notable performances:
Swimming and diving: Rachel Josephson, Little Falls, won the 50- and 100-yard freestyles at the St. Cloud Cathedral triangular.
Volleyball: Caitlyn Gutzman, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 37 digs and five ace serves against Isle to reach 1,000 career digs. She added 47 digs against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
Alix Peterson, Staples-Motley, finished with 33 digs, 12 kills and three ace serves against Menahga.
Ashley Adams, Wadena-Deer Creek, finished with 16 set assists, 13 kills, 12 digs and three ace serves against Menahga.
Alyssa Semmler, Aitkin, finished with 11 kills against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley to reach 1,000 for her career.
Molly Brownlow, Verndale, finished with 53 digs and two ace serves at the Underwood tournament to reach 1,000 career digs.