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The key three: Battle-tested seniors lead Jamestown into regionals

Jamestown seniors, from left, Maria LeFevre, Jenna Reed and Erin Mullowney take the Blue Jays into today’s West Region tennis tournament in Minot. Mullowney is seeded fifth for the singles tournament, while the doubles team of Reed and Bailee Graves is sixth. Jamestown is seeded seventh in the dual tournament. Chris Aarhus The Sun

Competitive matches have been frequent occurrences for the Jamestown High School girls tennis team.

Seniors Erin Mullowney, Jenna Reed and Maria LeFevre have been on the front lines the entire season.

The trio leads Jamestown into the West Region tournament today in Minot.

“Their leadership and spirit really rubs off on everybody,” Jamestown coach Pat Mullowney said. “They’re good role models and good people. The program really counts on them.”

Erin Mullowney, Pat’s daughter, has been starting since she was an eighth-grader, moving into the singles lineup at No. 5. Since then, it’s been a steady ascension to No. 1, which she assumed this year.

Erin takes the No. 5 seed into this weekend’s singles tournament. She said she’s adjusted nicely to filling the top spot.

“Going into the season, I thought (No. 1) would be a lot harder than it actually showed up to be,” she said. “I think I’m better than I thought I was. … People just need to go into their matches with confidence and that their (opponents) aren’t above us, and we can play with them.”

Her father has recollections of teaching Erin the game on the same court they practice on every day.

“I remember bringing her down here as a kid, way before I was coaching,” Pat said. “We’d hit and play. I taught her the game. She took a liking to it. She’s wired a lot like me and it can be combative at times, but we’re usually pulling in the same direction.”

Reed earned her spot in the lineup as a freshman and has yet to relinquish it. Not only has she been consistent, Reed has won more matches at No. 2 singles this season than at any other time in her prep career.

“She’s gotten more and more competitive throughout the years,” Pat Mullowney said. “She’s come a long way. Jenna has a lot of ability and plays within herself really well.”

Reed, who played No. 3 singles last season, said making her way into the top three meant stiffer competition.

“The 4-5-6 spots are good players — consistent,” she said. “But once you’re in the top three, the opponents start getting harder. You work at their pace and try not to let them overpower you.”

LeFevre took a different path.

She didn’t get a top-six spot until this season, debuting at No. 4. And her mild-mannered attitude pays off against opponents, Pat Mullowney said.

“She’s one of those kids where you don’t know what the score is,” he said. “I’ll look over from a couple of courts away and I don’t know if she’s ahead or behind, and that really serves her well. She’s very even-keeled.”

LeFevre said varsity was a handful early on.

“It was a little nerve-racking at first, but you get used to it,” she said. “Most of the kids I played with last year moved up with me.”

Jamestown is seeded seventh in the opening round of the team tournament today. The Blue Jays meet second-seeded Bismarck Century, a traditional power in the West. However, Jamestown lost 5-4 duals to both Williston and Dickinson this season, meaning the Jays could be right in the mix to, at minimum, make a state-qualifying dual.

“We just have to play confident and remember that a lot of the matches that we’ve played, we’ve been close with them,” LeFevre said. “We have the potential to make it to state as a team.”

Reed and No. 3 singles player Bailee Graves will team up and play doubles. The duo is seeded sixth in the tournament. LeFevre and Taylor Webber are also planning on playing doubles, while Erin Mullowney, Kaitlin Mullowney and Megan Larson hope to contend in the singles tournament.

“West Region is always a battle,” Pat Mullowney said. “There’s always close matches, up and down. We plan to have a lineup ready and compete hard, and we will compete hard with (Century).”

Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or