Jun. 2—Individual sports foster mental toughness and personal mastery, while team sports develop cooperation and communication, but in Tennis, you get both experiences in one sport.
For Valeria Bradley, both aspects of the sport have always intrigued her. Bradley has developed to become not only an individual powerhouse that qualified for state as freshman, but has as a member of the Midgets team quickly garnered the respect and leadership of her peers on the court.
Last Thursday, May 27 the Dickinson Girls Tennis team went to Jamestown to participate in the West Dakota Association Regional Tournament. Each match-up consisted of three singles and two doubles and proved to be difficult battles for the young Dickinson team. However, one player would stand out in the competition — and unsurprisingly, it was Bradley.
After their 1-4 defeat in the quarter finals against Bismarck Saint Mary's Central, the Midgets played in the consolation bracket where they met the No. 8 seed, Bismarck Demons in their second game. Thanks in part to a solid team effort that netted the team three singles victories, they would pull ahead 3-2 for the team win. Their final match, they would determine the state qualifiers in a pairing that would pit the young team against the Bismarck Legacy perennial powerhouse. The dual came down to the third singles match-up, where Elizabeth Dean and Bismarck's Aleah McPherson would battle until McPherson's rally would lead to a victory for Legacy.
"That girl in particular worked her butt off and exceeded our expectations," Shane Bradley, Dickinson's assistant coach, said of Dean. "She pushed herself to the limit and she had a phenomenal season. In every way, we are very happy."
Shane Bradley added, "The first goal is just making it (to regionals). Dickinson in general in the past has played so many play-in matches so there was never any doubt when we placed fifth."
Though the Midgets did not qualify for state as a team, their No. 1, Valeria Bradley will have the opportunity to represent Dickinson at the state level in the singles tourney. The lone freshman placed fourth in the conference after several bitter battles against the conference top players.
"I feel very proud, making it to state is not an easy task whether it is as a team or individually you have to work for it and I think Valeria has accomplished the challenge by being able to do this," head coach Lia Bradley said. "I feel confident that she will represent Dickinson well and I think this is going to make her a better player because she is going to face the best players in the state. It is not going to be easy from the beginning but whatever happens at the end of the week she is going to be a better player."
The singles tournament went through May 28 through 29 and with Valeria Bradley being No. 2 seed in the conference her first bracket was a bye. She then faced Sienna Ronning from Minot in the second round. Valeria Bradley was able to continue the quarter-finals with ease after winning the first two sets, 6-1 and 6-0. In the quarterfinals she faced another Minot player, Morgan Wheeler and also defeated her in 1 and 0.
It was in the semifinals when Valeria Bradley came across a competitor that left her bewildered.
She entered the courts with Kate Kesler of Mandan on the other end. Valeria Bradley took the first set 6-3 with great confidence but found trouble in the second after Kesler switched up her tactics.
"The second to last one against Mandan was kind of tough when she twisted up her game," Valeria Bradley said. "I was up in the first set but she came back, but I got used to her game in the second set."
The second set would end 1-6 and a final set would have to be played out. After settling herself, Valeria Bradley put up a good fight but lost the third set, 4-6.
"I think it was an amazing performance; Valeria won the first set 6-3 playing her game but then (Kate Kesler) really changed things up. She started hitting dropshots, lobs, slices and it may have thrown Valeria off in the second," Lia Bradley said. "Valeria was able to regather her game in the third and it was pretty even but in the last few games Kesler had the edge... A very competitive match,
Lia Bradley gave credit to Kesler being able to find a way to win. Kesler would go on to the championship against her fellow Brave teammate, Elizabeth Felderman. Felderman would win the WDA singles competition 6-0, 6-2.
Valeria Bradley would compete for third place against Jamestown player, Phoebe Olson. They faced each other May 21 in conference play where Valeria Bradley won in a tight three set match. This time Olson was able to get a handle on Valeria's fast pace style of play winning in two sets, 6-4, 6-3.
With the WDA tournament behind her, Valeria Bradley now looks to the state competition where she would be one of 16 competitors in the singles bracket. She will have her first match-up against Fargo Davies players, Marissa Burian, fifth in the Eastern Dakota Conference.
"I feel pretty confident... This is my second time competing at state so I have experience but I'm taking it very seriously to lead and represent Dickinson," Valeria Bradley said. "One thing about tennis that I like is the competition and to challenge myself to get better so I think this will be a fun experience."
When asked if Valeria Bradley would like to take state, without hesitation, she responded with an emphatic yes.