GRAND FORKS - On the first day of June, junior Anna Stankova will compete for the final time as a member of the Dickinson High girls tennis team.
Stankova, a foreign-exchange student from the Czech Republic, will travel back to her home country at the conclusion of the season. Thanks to her play during the first day on Girls Tennis State Singles tournament, she may be flying back with some hardware. With a pair of victories on Friday, May 31, the ecstatic junior advanced to the tournament semifinals.
"It feels pretty good. I'm so excited for tomorrow," Stankova said gleefully.
As the No. 2 seed out of the West Region, Stankova cruised by Fargo Davies junior Habiba Heshmat, the East's No. 7 seed. Capturing a 6-0, 6-3 triumph in her opening match, the Midget had little trouble versus another Eagles junior, No. 3 seed Madison Bell, who she defeated 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
"I think she did what she's been doing all season," Dickinson head coach Lia Bradley said. "She's just such a solid player, very, very consistent and very smart, and she knows when to go for those winners. ... These players, they're really good players that she went up against, but they ended up making the mistake first or Anna ended up putting the ball away."
With the two victories, Stankova, Dickinson's lone representative on the All-WDA Team, improved to 17-2 in singles matches this season.
"I stayed consistent and made some winners with my backhand, but mainly I was being consistent," Stankova said.
Slotted as the No. 6 seed out of the West, Midgets seventh-grader Valeria Bradley had a strong showing in her debut at the state singles tournament. In a first-round match against Bell, Bradley won a marathon of a first set by the margin of 7-6 (11). From there, Bell eked out the second frame 6-4 before outlasting her opponent 6-3 to take the match.
The seventh-grader fell to Heshmat 6-3, 6-1 in the consolation bracket, concluding with a 13-7 singles record during her first year with Dickinson.
"This was the best match of her life," Lia Bradley said of Valeria's opening match. "There was a big crowd, a lot of people were impressed with her because she's a little seventh-grader and that was the No. 1 player for Fargo Davies, who is a very, very strong player. It gives me hope for the future, to know that she could be close to some of these players is just very impressive to me."
Entering Championship Saturday, the tournament has gone chalk as the top-four seeds each advanced to the semifinal round. Arguably the best player of the final four is West Fargo Sheyenne junior Monti Knewtson, the No. 1 seed out of the East and Stankova's next opponent.
Knewtson won the state singles title as a freshman in 2017 and teamed with freshman Mimi Gu to capture the state doubles crown in 2018.
"I need a lot of luck to beat her," Stankova said while laughing. "She has a very strong forehand and serve.
"It would mean so much (to win the state championship). It's not possible, but if I would, I would probably be the happiest person because this is my dream since I started playing tennis a lot here. For me to get to the state championship, and then to win, it would be icing on the top."
Girls Tennis State Singles Tournament
First round: #2W Anna Stankova, Dickinson, def. #7E Habiba Heshmat, Fargo Davies, 6-0, 6-3. #3E Madison Bell, FD, def. #6W Valeria Bradley, D, 6-7 (11), 6-4, 6-3.
Quarterfinals: #2W Stankova, D, def. #3 Bell, FD, 6-2, 6-2.
Consolation bracket: #7E Heshmat, FD, def. #6W Bradley, D, 6-3, 6-1.