RENO - When they first paired up as a team back in August, Galena High School's Dawn Stupfel and Alexis Scott didn't expect to be packing their bags for a trip to Las Vegas to play in the state tennis tournament in October.
But they are on the way after vaulting from No. 7 seed all the way to a runner-up finish in girls doubles at the Northern 4A zone tournament Saturday at the Plumas Tennis Complex.
Stupfel and Scott, both seniors, clinched their state berth Friday afternoon with a straight-set quarterfinal victory over the No. 2 seed from McQueen, and they continued their momentum on Saturday by advancing to the finals before losing to top-seeded Cynthia Levitt and Kelli Lonergan of Reno, 7-5, 6-3.
"We were ahead at one point, that helped our confidence, but then they pulled it together," Stupfel said. "They're a good team; they've been playing together a long time."
All of this came as a shock to a Galena duo that is in its first season playing together.
"This was a surprise, the way we were seeded. And we had to beat a McQueen team we had lost to twice before," said Stupfel, a fourth-year veteran of Galena's program.
"After that, we were just having fun, and we got second," Scott added. "We're excited. When the season started, I never thought we'd get this far."
Meanwhile, Carson freshman Polly Johnson and Amber Oglesby of Douglas finished third and fourth respectively in the girls singles to qualify for the NIAA/U.S. Bank state tournament, which begins with team competition Thursday at UNLV. Both dropped hard-fought decisions in the semifinals, then Johnson outlasted Oglesby in a battle for the third-place medal 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
In addition to qualifying for her first state tournament, Johnson beat Oglesby, for the first time.
"Polly played excellent," Carson coach Linda Hixenbaugh said. "She was in a zone today. She had a lot of mental toughness to get through, but she did what she had to do."
Johnson lost in the semifinals to the eventual champion, Tahoe-Truckee's Sandy Brunner, a 17-year-old exchange student from Switzerland, 6-4, 6-3. Oglesby, a junior who qualified for state last year, lost her semifinal to Reno's Stacy May, 6-4, 6-4.
Oglesby and Johnson, who are friends and training partners, came in seeded third and fourth respectively. Their match reflected that closeness.
"They battled it out. Polly just played great and won the match," Douglas coach Dee Gosselin said. "I think Amber was a little disappointed. She was hoping for a higher finish, but she plans to work hard this week to see if she can pull an upset down in Las Vegas. That's possible. All four (of the Northern singles qualifiers) are very competitive. It's good to see the North this strong."