Girls tennis team wins state title

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton’s girls tennis team won the alternate-fall state championship last Saturday. The Cardinals defeated Neenah, 4-3, in the state finals./Photo courtesy of Christopher Hujanen

A No. 3 doubles match doesn't usually draw a large crowd at a tennis match.

At the WIAA’s alternate season girls state team tennis tournament held last Saturday in Eau Claire, though, fans flocked for a decent seat.

Middleton and Neenah were tied, 3-3, with the state championship hanging in the balance.

That’s when Middleton senior Charlotte Sax and freshman Caroline Sax came up huge. The Sax sisters toppled Neenah’s Bradyn Gentile and Alise Van Dyke 6-2, 7-6 (7) in a match held at the Menard Tennis Center.

The win gave the Cardinals a 4-3 win over the Rockets and the second state championship in school history. Middleton, which has been to state eight times, also won the title in 2013.

“Everyone was watching: friends, family, coaches, and teammates,” said Netra Samasundaram, Middleton’s top singles player. “During the tie-breaker the entire facility was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, and once one point was gained we were all cheering as loud as possible.”

Sophia Agapov, the Cardinals’ No. 2 singles player, said she was a nervous wreck during the final match.

“Once it was down to the final match I was beyond nervous,” Agapov said. “I was watching every point so closely, but I had faith in my teammates and knew they were able to pull through. I’m beyond proud of how they played.”

Amazingly, the Sax sisters had no idea what the overall score was. Instead, they were laser-focused on defeating Gentile and Van Dyke.

The Middleton duo rolled through the first set, before the Neenah tandem made the second set a nailbiter. In the end, though, the Sax sisters made big shot after big shot and propelled the Cardinals to a state championship.

“I walked up to the Sax sisters and they didn’t even know we won the state title,” Middleton first-year coach Matt Given said. “This just shows you that we focus on each individual match and treat them all the same. Once the girls all ran onto the courts after, I think is when it settled in for these girls.”

That win capped a thrilling day for Middleton (9-2), which entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed and a slight underdog to top-ranked Neenah (16-1).

Middleton opened with a relatively stress-free, 6-1, win over third-seeded Ashwaubenon.

Samasundaram defeated Natasha Schiegg 6-1, 6-0 at No. 1 singles. Agapov rolled past Puja Patel, 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2 singles, while Amy Li defeated Aneesha Prathigudupu, 6-2, 6-4 at No. 3 singles.

Middleton then swept the doubles matches, as well.

Noor Rajpal and Karsen Dettman defeated Delaney Christensen and Courtney Behnke 6-3, 6-0, at No. 1. Cece Hujanen and Rose Ryan rolled past Karleigh Conradt and Mayghan Bongle, 6-2, 6-3, at No. 2. And the Sax sisters cruised by Lucy Cole and Emily Cole, 6-1, 6-4, at No. 3.

Despite the win, Given wasn’t thrilled how his team played.

“It was not our best match to be honest, and I had to have a talk with the girls afterwards,” Given said. “I knew we would have to bring more energy against Neenah and the girls did just that.”

They sure did.

Neenah was unbeaten this season, but the Cardinals changed that.

Samasundaram continued her stellar play with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Neenah’s top singles player, Ava Dunsirn.

“I feel like I personally carried out one of my best games this season in my final match against Neenah,” Samasundaram said. “I was happy that I helped our team win the team state.”

Agapov did the same, rolling to a 6-1, 6-3, win over Nora Paape at No. 2 singles.

“I was really focused on doing well in my matches,” Agapov said. “The past couple matches before team state I wasn’t very happy with how I had been playing, but I knew that my team was relying on me so I put my all into the matches. I am proud of how I finished the season and was able to help my team win.”

Middleton’s Bella Conrad posted a big win at No. 4 singles when she defeated Meghan Stielow, 6-4, 6-2. Then the Sax sisters gave a terrific performance that gave the Cardinals the title.

“Our goal was to compete and control what we can control,” Given said. “I would say these girls did all of that and more! I told the girls to block out the noise and just play within themselves.”

It was quite an ending for a Middleton team that wasn’t sure it would even have a season.

When the Cardinals passed on playing last fall, it certainly put their season on life support. But when winter sports returned at MHS in January, it gave new life to spring sports.

The Cardinals then took full advantage.

“These ladies were awesome to work with,” Given said.

Given’s state championship team certainly agreed.

“I am lucky to have such an amazing team,” Samasundaram said.

Added Agapov: “This was a huge accomplishment. Last year we didn’t qualify by one point at our sectional, but we were determined this year and were able to succeed. Our team grew really close this year and winning team state really showed that.”

 

 

May 1

State championship

MIDDLETON 4, NEENAH 3

Singles: Somasundaram, M, def. Dunsim, 6-2, 6-2; Agapov, M, def. N. Paape, 6-1, 6-3; Heroux, N, def. Li, 2-6, 6-3 (8); Conrad, M, def. Stielow, 6-4, 6-2.

Doubles: S. Paape/Roth, N, def. Rajpal/Dettman, 5-7, 6-0 (9); Risgaard/Zenzick, N, def. Hujanen/Ryan, 6-4, 6-0; Ch. Sax/Ca. Sax, M, def. Gentile/Van dyke, 6-2, 7-6 (7).

 

Semifinals

MIDDLETON 6, ASHWAUBENON 1

Singles: Somasundarem, M, def. Schiegg, 6-1, 6-0; Agapov, M, def. Patel, 6-1, 6-3; Li, M, def. Prathigudupu, 6-2, 6-4; Domnick, A, def. Conrad, 6-1, 6-2.

Doubles: Rajpal/Dettman, M, def. Christensen/Behnke, 6-3, 6-0; Hujanen/Ryan, M, def. Conradt/Bongle, 6-2, 6-3; Ch. Sax/Ca. Sax, M, def. L. Cole/E. Cole, 6-1, 6-4. Records: M 8-2; A 8-4.

 

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