Wildcat tennis ends season-long journey at state

Sending an impressive three players on to state competition, the varsity girls tennis team continued to build on a burgeoning dynasty. Coming in second at sectionals and in the FVA conference just behind Neenah, the girls leveraged their camaraderie and teamwork to success on the court.

In building his team’s schedule, Coach Andrew Schaller took a risk by front loading it with top notch opponents in an effort to hone his squad’s appetite for dominance.

“I had changed around the schedule this year, so I could have the girls play the top teams in the state, with the overall hope to get the girls playing in a position in which they could help the team succeed,” he said.

While the shift proved successful, players still felt stretched by postseason competition. Junior Allison Buege, a three-year varsity member, believes the demands required pushed her to become a stronger player.

“Conference was definitely a challenge for me this year,” she said. “I had to play in a position I wasn’t particularly used to and that was definitely tough for me.”

Brecca Bettcher, junior and first year varsity player, also struggled with this lineup change, but nonetheless appreciated how it pushed her growth as a player.

“It was a challenge playing with two different lineups, but overall I feel that I became more of a versatile player from this experience,” she said.

Beginning team meetings and workouts in the summer months allowed the Wildcats to forge unity in the heat of practice. Junior Anna Gannon, first year varsity player, thinks the sport itself brings the team closer.

“Spending the end of our summer together because of practice and invites naturally brought us closer together,” she said.

Even though the squad features new members on varsity, the majority of the team has played on the same team for some time now.

“Many of the girls on varsity, including myself, have been playing together for years, and it has always been so uplifting to play with girls whom I talk to year round, not just for a month or two when it’s season,” Buege said.

Part of being a champion, regardless of the sport, resides in overcoming the mental block of rivals standing in the way.

“A challenge that we all faced as a team was definitely keeping up our mental game,” Buege said. “When we played Neenah, as they obviously have a good reputation for sports, was really tough for our mental focus.”

With the many new team additions, both the girls and Schaller had to adapt to unify the squad and raise the bar of expectations.

“The improvement the new girls have shown is drastic,” Schaller said. “You always worry as you bring players up how comfortable they will feel and how that will affect their game, but I have been extremely satisfied with the play of my girls.”

Even though not every individual player was able to qualify for sectionals, Schaller is proud of the team’s accomplishments and the bond they have formed.

“The majority of the girls who did not qualify for sectionals were called out of school to come support their teammates, which speaks volumes about the girls,” he said.

While tennis can feel a bit lonely as singles players rise and fall on individual merit, team members always felt a tangible sense of support, according to Gannon. “Knowing that I had a supportive team behind me made tennis so much more fun and enjoyable,” she said.

Finishing the season off strong, the Wildcats sent three seniors to State.  Kimmy Steinert competed in singles while Maggie Schiessl and Erica Casper took the court in doubles competition. Steinert made it to the awards podium, placing sixth in State.

Though the season has come to a close,  the team’s bond continues off the court, a feature Schaller hopes leads to future success.

“The tennis season is over, unfortunately,” he said. “But the girls have not forgotten their friendship as many of them still spend time with each other off the courts.”

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