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November 30, 2021

10/22/2021 2:46:00 PM
Gillach and Erickson heading to state

Keeping their momentum going from last week’s buzzsaw performance through the first couple rounds of the section tournament, Greta Gillach and Emily Erickson started off scorching-hot on Tuesday, October 19 in the semifinals.

The matches were hosted at Chisago Lakes on a perfect fall day with the sun shining and temperatures in the high 60s.

The Wildcat pair opened against Megan Bussey and Claire Rewertz from Hibbing in the first crossover semifinal. The sixth-seeded team didn’t offer much resistance to Gillach and Erickson, falling 6-1, 6-0. The was a good warm up for the girls, but it didn’t necessarily push the shotmaking ability that they would need in the finals.
On the other half of the bracket, the second-seeded pair of Elk River’s Mya Nelson and Emma Anderson made quick work of their Brainerd opponents to set up the top two teams in the section finals.

The match kicked off like you’d expect between two good teams. Both teams made the shots they were supposed to, but didn’t quite get aggressive as they both held serve through the first three points, with Chisago Lakes holding the early 2-1 lead.

But, in the fourth point, both Gillach and Erickson had some beautiful shots that broke Nelson’s serve and gave them the early advantage. Erickson made sure not to surrender that advantage on her next serve, holding it to go up 4-1 to give CL a commanding lead.

Anderson held serve to get Elk River back to 4-2, but Gillach took commanded of her serve, and the Wildcats proceeded to break Nelson again, winning the opening set 6-2.
The crowd, which was large and vocal since it was essentially a home meet for Chisago Lakes, erupted at the end of the set.

 The second set started in a much different way and had many twists and turns as it moved forward.
Elk River broke the first two serves of Chisago Lakes and took a commanding 3-0 lead, completely reversing all the momentum Chisago Lakes had built in the second set.

The ‘Cats were finally able to secure a point, but Elk River bounced right back to get one of their own and led 4-1.

They split the next two points as well, but Elk River was knocking on the door of winning the set with a 5-2 lead.

Erickson and Gillach wouldn’t fold, however. They played some tight volleys with multiple deuce points and faced a set loss more than once, but they fought back to win the next three points and tie the match at 5-5 and breathe new life into their game and the crowd.

Elk River held serve on the next point to go up 6-5, but then Gillach held her own serve to make it 6-6 and send the set into a tiebreak.

The Elks quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak in kind of a mirror of the whole set. But, Chisago Lakes kept focus. They ran off the six of the next seven points to move to the brink of a match win.

A tense volley went back and forth for what seemed like forever before Erickson hit what looked like the winner. The ball hit the tape of the net and popped up in the air and looked like it was going to land on  Elk River’s side and be unreturnable, but the backspin just brought the ball back enough where it clipped off the top of the net and rolled back down on to Chisago Lakes’ side, denying them the match win and moving the tiebreak to 6-5 in their favor.

Elk River tied it on the next point and then won the set by taking two of the next three points.

With the match at one set a piece for the girls, it could’ve been easy for frustration to set in for Erickson and Gillach after so many near-misses in the second set.
All of the momentum was in favor of the Elks and after all the drama in the second set, it was shaping up to be a blockbuster last set.

But, in terms of competitiveness, it turned out to be a dud, especially for Elk River fans. After battling for almost an hour and a half combined in the first two sets, the third set was done in about 20 minutes and featured a clean 6-0 beatdown by Erickson and Gillach, punching their ticket to the state tennis tournament.

All of the close shots that were missing in the second set were landing in in the third set, and the focus that carried them to their comeback stayed with them. Gillach, a senior playing some of the last days of her high school tennis career, wouldn’t relent, and Erickson, a junior, followed the lead by attacking more and hitting some absolutely perfect shots in the final set.

The win sends the Wildcat duo to the state tournament on Thursday, October 28 at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota. It will be a return trip for Gillach, who went two years ago as a sophomore in the individual bracket. The Class AA doubles quarterfinals start at 10 a.m. The match up draws were held after the Press went to print, but as a section winner, Gillach and Erickson will face a team that finished second in their respective section.

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