Inspired after reaching last year’s WIAA state individual girls tennis tournament as a special qualifier, Madison Memorial junior Grace Olson was determined to elevate her game this season.
“For sure; I really worked hard during the winter and my coaches have helped me so much,” Olson said.
Olson, after playing No. 2 singles last year, became this season’s Big Eight Conference tournament No. 1 singles champion, led the Spartans to their first conference title — and state team berth — since 2005 and earned the No. 4 seed in Division 1 at the individual tournament at Nielsen Tennis Stadium.
“Grace is a super-hard worker,” Madison Memorial coach Joe King said. “She spends a lot of time in the offseason playing tennis and improving her game. She has one of the strongest competitive desires on our team. Her attitude and her willingness to work really pushed her forward this year.”
Olson, armed with a potent backhand, claimed a victory over teammate Julia Zhou in Thursday’s second round, then topped Eau Claire Memorial senior Sierra Auleta 6-3, 6-2 in Friday’s round of 16.
Olson (26-3), making her third state appearance, dropped a 6-0, 6-4 decision to Mequon Homestead junior Natalie Yang (31-5), the No. 5 seed, in the afternoon’s quarterfinals. Yang avenged a regular-season loss to Olson.
“I have been playing OK the whole tournament,” Olson said. “My forehand was definitely off and my serve was off (against Yang). The matches against Julia and the Eau Claire girl I just tried to battle and get to every shot. Natalie played super well and moved me around. She definitely played a lot better than at the beginning of the season.”
Olson, who will play in the consolation round today, was the area’s top-advancing player in Division 1.
Eighth-seeded Sabrina Tang of Stevens Point rallied to edge ninth-seeded Maddi Bremel, a Madison West sophomore, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, in the round of 16. Racine Case freshman Bojana Pozder, the undefeated top seed, earned a 6-1, 6-1 victory over DeForest sophomore Samantha Fuchs in the round of 16.
In Division 1 doubles, Middleton sophomore Karsen Dettman and senior Maddie Clark, the top-seeded duo, turned in a major comeback to reach today’s semifinals.
Dettman and Clark (25-1) rallied for a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 victory over ninth-seeded Bridget Brown and Kate Wade (24-8) of Mequon Homestead.
“We really needed to be aggressive and come to the net, because we were playing defense,” Dettman said. “When we come in and close off points, that’s when we are successful.”
After ousting teams from Green Bay Southwest and Cedarburg, Clark said she and Dettman were thrown off in the quarterfinal’s first set by a boisterous crowd.
“Once we got into our rhythm and realized we just had to block everything out and focus on our game, I think that really helped,” Clark said.
Falling in second-round matches were Madison West’s Camille Vadas and Sophie Knigge, Watertown’s Jenna Koepp and Katie Schleicher, Middleton’s Jessica Pientka and Noor Rajpal and Madison West’s Spencer Harrison and Katie Goetz.
After reaching the final eight last year, Madison Edgewood sophomore Baluck Deang wanted to take another step this season: She set a goal of reaching the final four.
The fifth-seeded Deang faced a steep climb to get there in her singles quarterfinal against fourth-seeded Lauren Carson, a Waukesha Catholic Memorial sophomore.
The left-handed Deang (21-5) won the final five games of the match and rallied for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory, overcoming 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the third set.
“I met my goal,” said Deang, who defeated Appleton Xavier’s Anne Marie Knabe 6-0, 6-0 in the round of 16. “It does feel good.”
Deang said she tried to hit deeper and play more consistently after losing the first set to Carson.
“I needed to calm myself down and not rush my shots,” Deang said. “I needed to be smooth.”
Jefferson senior Morgan Graf and Edgewood senior Julia Hess bowed out in the round of 16.
Edgewood senior Kinsey Kessel and junior Lizzie Drake (17-11), the eighth-seeded team, advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Kenosha St. Joseph’s top-seeded and undefeated Giana Apostoli and Megan Setter 6-0, 6-0.
Edgewood junior Kelly Smith and sophomore Sarah Dunn dropped their round-of-16 match.