Jun. 8—Valeria Bradley experienced early defeat in the girl state singles competition this past Friday in her first round match. However, her journey at state did not stop there, as she would continue to compete for top tier placement, gaining wisdom along the way.
This year, Valeria Bradley's state tournament experience was limited to day one of the two day competition, June 4-5. She had some success winning one of her three matches.
After Valeria Bradley fell to the consolation bracket where she had a repeat matchup against Morgan Wheeler, Minot's No. 3 and No. 8 in the West Region. They met on court a week earlier in the WDA tourney, May 28, where Bradley found victory in two sets 6-1 and 6-0.
The state setting was not much different, with Bradley taking the win in two sets, 6-0, 6-2.
After that came another familiar face from the WDA, Phoebe Olson of Jamestown. The two girls seem destined to battle as they have faced one another on four separate occasions this year. The first time was a scrimmage at the beginning of the season, the win came in two sets, 6-1, 7-5 in Bradley's favor. The second encounter was at the end of the season in conference play where Olson would claim redemption in a heated three set match.
They then faced in the WDA tournament for fifth place which Olson took after two sets, 6-4, 6-3.
"She is a very strong player, that girl. They bring out the best in each other... She is very strong, very aggressive like Valeria so it just kind of goes back and forth with the momentum," said Lia Bradley, Midgets head coach and Valeria's mother. "Sometimes Phoebe had it, sometimes Valeria had it.
For their fourth and final matchup, the two put everything on the table — or rather, the court.
"The first set, Valeria really didn't play that well against Phoebe and we kind of got on her and said, 'You are at state, you need to bring your best game.' And she did, she listened and buckled down," Lia Bradley said. "We rarely get mad, we always try to be very positive... We wanted to see what we had seen throughout the season."
The first set ended 1-6 against Bradley, but she came around and took the second set, 6-3. The final set would be an intense duel that would lead to a 7 point tie-breaker with the final score of 7-6(4) against Bradley.
"Valeria went for a lot of winners in the tie breaker and that gave the edge to Phoebe to win the match. But it was a very close and exciting match," Lia Bradley said. "We are very proud of Valeria for finishing in a very tough match like that... She exceeded our expectations for the season and we thought she played a great tournament."
Tears filled Valeria Bradley's eyes after realizing that this was the end of the chapter for her in the 2021 state tournament. It was an emotional moment for everyone involved, even the competitors coach became teary eyed knowing how hard Bradley fought. Her coaches — mother, Lia, and father, Shane — consoled her as she endured the hard lesson that comes with competing.
"She did have tears and was heartbroken wanting to advance but it shows that she took it very seriously... I think she represented Dickinson very well," Lia Bradley said. "We are her parents and we are her coaches and we have high expectations, but she brought her best so we are very proud of her."
The Bradleys are looking forward to taking a trip to Mexico to visit Valeria Bradley's grandparents, who are also her biggest supporters. After they return from their vacation they will hit the ground running and work on improving during the offseason to add different strokes at her disposal.
"Some weakness that we saw was changing things up. She maintains the same type of style and at some point you need to change things up. Like going to the net, slicing and drop shots. Just more variety to her game, but most of that will come with experience," Lia Bradley said. "She just needs more experience, she is still very young, she is a freshman. She needs to keep playing and continue with that schedule and add some weapons to her arsenal."