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Red River ekes out championship

FARGO -- Catie Mullally finished her successful career at Grand Forks Red River by serving the winning game in a closely-contested girls state championship tennis match at Courts Plus on Friday.

FARGO -- Catie Mullally finished her successful career at Grand Forks Red River by serving the winning game in a closely-contested girls state championship tennis match at Courts Plus on Friday.

Mullally and doubles partner Madison Hovland capped the Roughriders' comeback, clinching their seventh consecutive state title by defeating Bismarck Century 3-2.

"(Mullally's) been an unbelievable player for us over the years," Red River coach Tim Wynne said. "I couldn't be happier for her to go out on top."

Mullally did not want to end her career with a loss.

"This is potentially my last game as a Red River Roughrider, I want to go out big," she told Hovland. "I said even if we lose I want to go out swinging . . . I wanted the win. I wanted to go out a winner and it feels really great."

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It was a near-perfect ending for Mullally.

"If I got my first serve in, it would have been better," she joked. "It felt great. It was good to have the (tennis) balls in my hands in that last couple of moments.

"I've never played with so much intensity. It was great," she said.

The Patriots won the first two matches and appeared to be on their way to breaking the Red River curse after having lost to the Roughriders in the previous five state title matches.

But it was not to be.

"We pulled a Lazarus there. We were dead and buried," Wynne said.

Alicia Horner, Century's No. 2 singles player, was up a set and led 5-3 in the second set, only to have eighth-grader Samantha Anderson rebound and take the victory.

"It was intense," Anderson said. "She played really, really well. It was just a major battle."

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Anderson's victory meant Mullally and Hovland, who also faced a 5-3 deficit when trailing a set, held a seventh-straight title in the palms of their hands.

"They're backs were against the wall . . . and that's indicative of a quality team. They made the shots when they needed to," Century coach Scott McPherson said.

Red River's No. 1 doubles team did not know their second set victory set the stage for a state-title determining third set until the court flooded with players from both teams and fans flocked to the window above the court to see the final few games.

Then the players knew what was at stake.

"We went there on the court and said this is it," Mullally said. "We just knew we had to win it. We had to win it for us and for the team and we just had to play every point."

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