GRAND FORKS - Anna Stankova walked on to the North Dakota high school tennis scene as a relative unknown.
As the 2019 girls tennis season has reached its conclusion, the Dickinson High junior will exit the scene with what may be the greatest single season in program history.
In her final time representing the Midgets, Stankova, a foreign-exchance student from the Czech Republic, earned fourth place and All-Tournament honors at the State Individual Tournament on Saturday, June 3, from the Choice Health & Fitness indoor facility.
According to head coach Lia Bradley, it is the first time a Midgets girls tennis player captured a spot on the All-Tournament team. Stankova's fourth-place finish is also the highest placement from a DHS player in school history.
"It's pretty unbelievable because at the beginning of the year, she was a little bit homesick," Bradley said. "So it was hard to get her to come out and play with us. She didn't let competition at all. ... Just to see her progress and how she started liking tournaments and how she improved her game is just amazing to me."
Prior to her semifinal match with West Fargo Sheyenne junior Monti Knewtson, Stankova believed she needed all the fortune in the world to defeat the former state champion.
After dropping her first set to the top-seed singles player from the Eastern Dakota Conference, Stankova's performance in the second frame was more than just luck, it was sheer domination, as she wiped out Knewtson 6-0.
"My coach, she told me to hit it to her backhand, so I was trying to do that the whole time while keeping it in the back, because when she would go to the net, she would just kill the ball," Stankova said.
Stankova jumped out to a 40-love advantage in the first game of the third and deciding set, but when she couldn't draw first blood, all the momentum shifted to the Mustang standout. Knewtson took the last frame 6-0 to advance to the finals.
"I think it was fairly good, it was probably my best match ever," Stankova said. "It was fun, but in the third set, she was just better than me."
In the other semifinal, Grand Forks Red River junior and eventual state champion Shaelyn Johnson earned a narrow victory over Minot senior Raquel Egge, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1, setting up a third-place match between the top-seed out of the West Region. There, Egge quickly moved by a fatiguing Stankova 6-1, 6-1.
"She's really good, she's really consistent. I was consistent, too, but in the beginning, I was making a lot of mistakes," Stankova said. "It wasn't the best and I didn't have much energy after three days playing the whole time. It was too much for me."
Following Saturday's results, Stankova finished with a 17-4 record in singles competition.
She originally planned on traveling back to her home country earlier in the spring, but after leading the Midgets to the state tournament for the first time since 2015 while having her own success in singles, the junior decided to extend her stay.
Stankova began the season with zero expectations. On Monday, she traveled back to the Czech Republic, but not before capturing some hardware and making memories along the way.
"I like the girls and the atmosphere," Stankova said. "Also making it to state, it was my dream to get there, so I'll remember it forever."
Girls Tennis State Individual Tournament
Semifinals: Monti Knewtson, West Fargo Sheyenne, def. Anna Stankova, Dickinson, 6-3, 0-6, 6-0. Shaelyn Johnson, Grand Forks Red River, def. Raquel Egge, Minot, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1.
Third-place match: Egge, M, def. Stankova, 6-1, 6-1.
Championship: Johhnson, GFRR, def. Knewtson, 6-2, 6-2.