SPASH doubles teams advance to State Tournament
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) will send a pair of doubles teams to the WIAA Division 1 Individual Girls Tennis State Tournament this weekend.
Seniors Meghan DeBot and Anna Hlavac won the Sectional Title at No. 1 doubles at Eau Claire Memorial Wednesday, Oct. 9, while the No. 2 doubles team of seniors Leah Olsen and Allison Rust earned a special qualifier to state, which will be held at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 17-19.
“We have four seniors, and it’s been their goal since before the season even started to make it to state in doubles,” said SPASH girls tennis head coach Michele O’Donnell. “Most of them have played singles in the past, and so doubles was a little bit of a switch for them, but they’ve done a great job with that, and they’ve had a great year.
“Both teams have won most of their matches, and they’re coming in strong to the State Tournament,” she said. “They just have gotten better as the year’s gone on.”
Last year, DeBot advanced to the State Quarterfinals with former doubles partner Elizabeth Wentzel, and teamed up with Hlavac this season to win the Wisconsin Valley Conference (WVC) Title at No. 1 doubles.
DeBot and Hlavac carried a 24-2 record into Sectionals, where they earned a trip to state with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Alexis Zenner and Ashley Hanley of Chippewa Falls in the quarterfinals.
“This is my first time, but I’ve seen what it’s like,” said Hlavac of state. “And it’s just really exciting to be able to actually go and do it, and not just watch.”
DeBot and Hlavac followed with a win in the semifinals, and then beat senior Zoe Briquelet Miller and junior Lea Ratanawong of Wausau East (17-3) in the finals to capture the Sectional Title.
“(The finals match) was three hours long, and it was super tight, but that was super exciting to be Sectional Champs,” said DeBot. “And it’s really exciting to get a chance to go down to state.
“It’s my second time going down, so I kind of know what to expect,” she said. “Last year I didn’t have any expectations, because it was my first year playing on the high school team, and getting seventh at state after winning three rounds, it was just great.”
“Meghan had played some doubles in the past, Anna had played more singles, but they really developed a lot as a team this season,” said O’Donnell. “They really turned it up at the end, and they were able to win the Sectional Tournament, which was fantastic.”
Olsen and Rust won the WVC Title at No. 2 doubles this season on their way earning a trip to Sectionals at the SPASH Subsectional Monday, Oct. 7.
At Sectionals, Olsen and Rust fell to senior Julia Nick and junior Natalie Harvey of Eau Claire Memorial (26-4), in what was potentially a season-ending loss that left them at 24-3 overall this fall.
“They have had a wonderful season all year,” said O’Donnell. “They’ve played No. 2 doubles, and most of their matches they have won pretty convincingly. There have been a couple of teams that they’ve had some close matches with, and Eau Claire Memorial was one of those teams, where they kind of swapped back and forth, some close two-set or three set matches.
“At Sectionals, unfortunately we were on the losing end of that, to a long, three-set match,” she said. “And I think they were heartbroken at the end of that match.”
However, when the Individual State Tournament brackets were announced two days later, Olsen and Rust received a special qualifier, as they both advanced to state for the first time.
“I’m so excited to play at state,” said Rust. “It’s been my goal since I was a freshman, to make it one year, so it’s really exciting to finally have the opportunity to go.”
“It feels awesome,” said Olsen. “We were really nervous after going to Sectionals and not making it through, but getting a special qualifier was so relieving.
“When coach texted us the news, I had to quick hop online and check it out,” she said. “And once I saw our names there, I just started crying, because I was so happy that we made it.”
Olsen and Rust will open against senior Caragan Olles and junior Rachel Van Hefty of Green Bay Notre Dame (13-8) at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
The winner will move on to face either the 10th-seeded team of junior Sophia Dekker and sophomore Madelyn Dziubek of Franklin (24-3) or seniors Brianna Pacetti and Kara Clark of Kenosha Tremper (10-2) in the second round at 10:15 a.m. Friday.
“The first round, we haven’t played them at all yet, so we’ll see what happens,” said Olsen. “We’re just going to play our best and see how we do.”
“I’m just excited to get out there and play,” said Rust. “I don’t want to go in with any expectations, but I’m hoping it will be a good match.”
Meanwhile, DeBot and Hlavac (27-2) will open at the State Tournament against sophomore Katie Meyer and senior Malory Names of Wausau West (10-6) at 1 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s kind of nice, because our first round is someone that we’ve played before, so it’ll make us a lot more comfortable,” said Hlavac. “And if we win that, then going into Friday, we’ll get our feet wet, and I’m pretty excited for that match too.”
The winner will move on to face the fourth-seeded team of senior Camille Vadas and junior Sophia Knigge of Madison West (31-3) in the second round at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18.
“My goal is obviously to at least make it through the first and second round,” said DeBot. “But these are going to be our last matches, since we’re seniors, so I also just want to have some fun.”
“Anna and Meghan are playing a Wausau West team that they’ve played in the past, they have won against this team a couple of times, so they kind of know what to expect,” said O’Donnell. “Last year we came in and took out a four seed in the second round and kept going, so it’s always possible.
“Allison and Leah are playing a Notre Dame team in the first round that we have not played before, they look like they’re a strong team, but I think anyone has a chance to win that first round,” she said. “Our teams have been to the environment in state before, they know what it’s like, they know what to expect, and I think some of the pressure’s off, now that they made it through to the State Tournament. So I’m hoping they play their best tennis there.”