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Girls Tennis: Irish qualify for state

When Rosemount faced South Suburban Conference champion Prior Lake during the regular season, the Lakers used a straight-set sweep of three doubles matches to claim a 4-3 victory.

Avoiding that sweep made the difference for the third-seeded Irish in Thursday's rematch in the Section 3AA finals. The duo of sisters Megan and Emily Harrington rallied for a 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 win at No. 2 doubles and the Irish claimed three out of four singles matches against the top-seeded Lakers to secure their second-ever state tournament berth with a 4-3 win at LifeTime Fitness in Lakeville.

"I want to say how proud I am of the level of game the Irish brought to the final section match," Rosemount coach Dana Beck said. "I was so proud of my doubles players.... All three teams took Prior Lake to three sets."

The doubles victory by the Harringtons squared the match at 3-3, with only the No. 4 singles contest between Rosemount's Kirsten Hoffmann and Prior Lake's Sarah Henderson still being played. The two split the first two sets, with Hoffmann winning 6-3 and Henderson responding, 6-4, to set up a section-deciding third set.

Hoffmann surged to a 5-1 lead, then Henderson inched within 5-4. Hoffmann moved ahead 40-0 in the next game, then, with the score 40-30, hit a winner to send the Irish back to the state tournament. The five senior members of the team were part of the first Rosemount team to qualify in 2009.

"The nervous energy was running high and there was silence except for the ball being struck by each player," Beck said of the final singles match. "(After the final shot), the Irish girls ran down from the stands, down four courts and grabbed on to Kirsten with excitement. It was truly a magical moment for the Irish."

Rosemount's other two victories came at No. 1 and No. 2 singles. Virginia Norder rolled, 6-2, 6-0, and Ally Baker won, 6-3, 6-4.

The Irish advanced to the finals by avenging last year's section finals loss to Eagan with a 4-3 triumph last Tuesday in Lakeville.

Like in the finals, three singles wins and a doubles win turned out to be the team's recipe for section success. Norder (6-4, 6-3), Baker (6-0, 6-3) and Hoffmann (6-1, 6-4) gave the Irish the edge in singles play, and this time the duo of Layna Mestad and Abby Kohagen provided the doubles victory by hanging on, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4).

The Irish face Section 8 champion Brainerd in the first round of the Class 2A State Tournament at noon next Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis.