SPASH girls tennis sends five to State
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
Stevens Point Area Senior High School senior Sabrina Tang will make her fourth consecutive trip to the WIAA Division 1 Girls Tennis Individual State Tournament, while the Panthers also qualified a pair of doubles teams for state at the Eau Claire Memorial Sectional Wednesday, Oct. 3.
Senior Elizabeth Wentzel and junior Meghan DeBot finished second at No. 1 doubles at Sectionals, and seniors Taylor Konczal and Lillie James won the Sectional Title at No. 2 doubles, as both teams also earned a trip to the State Tournament at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 11-13.
“It’s a pretty unreal feeling,” said James. “It’s really great to go back senior year and just finish it off there.”
“Obviously we’re thrilled that they qualified,” said SPASH girls tennis head coach Kyle Falk. “They’ve worked really hard in the off-season, and they worked really hard this season, and they made the gains and growth that they needed.
“And when it came down to it, they performed really well in the Subsectional and Sectional,” he said. “So we’re really proud of what they’ve accomplished, and I’m looking forward to good things down there.”
Tang entered this season with a 92-6 record through her first three years, after she advanced to the State Quarterfinals last year.
Tang went 3-0 last Thursday to claim the Sectional Title at No. 1 singles and advance to state with a 25-1 record this season.
“Sabrina’s had a fantastic season,” said Falk. “She sets her goals really high, and she was certainly disappointed with the loss that she had (to seventh-seeded Emily Horneffer of Brookfield East), but if the tournament goes the way we think it will, she might have an opportunity to play her, and we’ll see if she can’t beat her back.”
Tang received the eighth seed at state and an opening-round bye, and will take on the winner of senior Grace Purcell of Green Bay Notre Dame (14-10) and sophomore Olivia Eckes of Whitefish Bay (23-10) at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
“Obviously it’s a great way to leave your high school career, being a seed at the State Tournament and going down there to see what you can do,” said Falk. “Any time you’re a seed, you want to hold your seed and do better than that.
“And anything on top of that is icing on the cake,” he said.
Wentzel and DeBot qualified for state after they won their opening No. 1 doubles match at Sectionals, as DeBot earned her first trip and Wentzel advanced for the second year in a row, after she teamed up with former partner Maggie Negaard at No. 2 doubles last year.
“I was excited, because we knew if we got it, it would help our other team qualify,” said Wentzel. “So it was just a good celebration for both teams.”
“It’s very exciting,” said DeBot. “I just can’t wait to experience it.”
Wentzel and DeBot followed with another victory in the Sectional Semifinals, before they lost to Lindsey Johnson and Lexi Hastings of Menomonie (33-0) to place second.
At state, Wentzel and DeBot (20-2) are set to open against juniors Katie Hirst and Rachel Bemfeld of Whitefish Bay (18-12), with the winner to take on either the 13th-seeded duo of senior Kathy Wang and junior Grace Cady of Hartland Arrowhead (18-11) or senior Chloe Woods and junior Kayla Mauer of Union Grove (12-5) in the second round Friday at 9 a.m.
“We’ve definitely gotten closer as the season goes on, and our dynamic on the court has been very good too,” said DeBot. “We want to get past the first round and just see how far we can go.”
“I’m excited because all of my hard work from the summer paid off, and I get to play tennis with a great doubles partner, and compete against the best girls in the state,” said Wentzel. “It’s the only way I would want it to end, in Madison with all of my friends and family watching.”
Konczal and James earned their second consecutive trip to state as doubles partners, as they won the Sectional Title at No. 2 doubles to improve to 23-3 on the season.
“Me and my partner burst into happy tears as soon as our match was over,” said James. “We were just so excited to be able to go back.”
“It’s amazing,” said Konczal. “I definitely wanted to finish off my tennis season strong with my partner.”
Konczal and James will take on junior Lillie Ripley and senior Hannah Gage of Lake Geneva Badger (19-1) at 2 p.m. Thursday, with the winner to face the third-seeded team of senior Claudia Huerth and junior Ava Anderson of Lake Geneva Badger (19-1) at 9 a.m. Friday.
“(The goal is) definitely getting past the first round,” said Konczal. “And then hopefully making it to Saturday.”
“Meghan and Elizabeth started out at No. 2 doubles and moved up to No. 1, and have had a great regular season and a great postseason,” said. Falk. “They worked together in the off-season, they wanted to play together and certainly we’re thrilled with the job they’ve done, and I think they’ll accomplish some pretty nice things down at the State Tournament.
“Lillie and Taylor really just picked up right where they left off and experienced some great success, all of their losses were to seeded teams at the State Tournament, so certainly they’re a very good team too,” he said. “We are very lucky in the sense that we have really two No. 1 doubles teams in terms of talent, and they’re going to go down and represent SPASH really well and our team well, and I’m looking for a really nice performance from them down there too.”