For the first time since 2006, the Rapid City Stevens Raiders are state champs in girls tennis. On Friday in Sioux Falls, the Raiders tennis squad sat atop the team standings at the conclusion of the event to claim the state title.
Sioux Falls Lincoln has been the state champions in girls tennis for the past five years, but this year, it was time for someone new to move into that role.
“Most people, before the season, kind of were ranking O’Gorman and Harrisburg as one – two, and a lot of people kind of forgot about us,” explained Rapid City Stevens head tennis coach Jason Olson. “We had tough matches the whole year long, and Lincoln lost some great players, and they came in. It was a great tournament, close tournament.”
Rapid City Stevens finished with 469.5 points, followed closely by Harrisburg at 445, who narrowed the gap aggressively during the doubles championship matches. In the singles flights, Stevens was dominant. Anna Mueller (3), Abby Sherrill (4), Emma Thurness (5), and Kaiya Parkin (6) all won state titles in their flights, while Peyton Ogle placed second in Flight 2 and Alastrina Scott took third in Flight 1.
Stevens was due for a state championship. After all, they’ve been runner-up in girls tennis nine times since their past state championship a decade and a half ago.
“It feels great for these girls. That’s what it’s all about, it’s about these girls. We bring fourteen girls on this trip and we’ve got forty-six girls out on our team. It’s about all these kids,” Olson stated. “I’ve been lucky, this is my eighth state title as a coach between boys and girls tennis and it’s been a long time. We’ve got like twenty second place finishes. It’s always about the kids, Stevens doesn’t have any of the success without the kids.”
Winning a state championship this year has extra meaning for the 2021 Raiders team. Just this past December, assistant coach Dan Sherrill passed away. His daughter Abby, as fate would have it, won the state championship in Singles Flight 4 on Friday in her final competitive match of her high school career.
“[Dan Sherrill], my assistant coach, passed away last year and we all had a resolve to win a title and honor him. With Abby being a senior, his daughter on our team, so we kind of had that goal all year,” Olson exclaimed. “If anything got tough, we said ‘hey, remember, we’re playing for something bigger than ourselves,’ and I think that kind of helped those kids. But they’re just a team, everybody scored, everybody was on the podium, it’s a team effort.”
Friday’s state championship is the fifth state title for the Stevens girls tennis program since the sport became sanctioned in 1973. 2002 was their first one.