All season, the Madison Memorial girls tennis team relied on its singles players. Each day, they pushed each other to improve.
At the top of the lineup, junior Grace Olson proved to be a tireless worker and fierce competitor en route to winning the Big Eight Conference tournament No. 1 singles crown and No. 2 player Julia Zhou was a persistent returner of shots who also earned a league title.
“(Zhou) is pretty relentless,” Spartans coach Joe King said. “She does not willingly give up on any ball. She just is willing to outwork anybody that steps on the court with her.”
That same dogged determination filled the fifth-ranked squad’s lineup Thursday when the Spartans won the WIAA Division 1 Madison Memorial sectional at Nielsen Tennis Stadium.
Zhou, freshman Nikita Remesh and sophomore Jessica Jiang earned championships at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 singles, respectively; junior Meera Manoharan and sophomore Janna Liu won the No. 3 doubles flight; Olson finished second at No. 1 singles; and seniors Anna Hubbard and Devika Kamath placed third at No. 1 doubles.
“It means everything,” said Zhou, a junior who improved to 25-2. “I feel really honored to be a part of this group. I think we have a super close-knit group and everybody loves each other. I’m happy we could all achieve something we’ve been striving for this season.”
Big Eight champion Memorial finished first with 45 points and qualified for the state team tournament Oct. 19-20 for the first time since 2005 and the second time overall. Sixth-ranked Middleton won No. 1 doubles and was runner-up with 34 points, while 11th-ranked Madison West won No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles and had 30.
“It means a lot,” said King, an assistant in 2005 who took over as coach in 2008. “It’s exciting to be part of the Memorial history and get to state with these girls. I can’t say enough about how hard-working they are and dedicated to the sport of tennis. The way they work together and support each other has been amazing from Day One of the season.”
Jiang earned the Spartans’ first title, defeating Middleton senior Kayla Wiegand 6-2, 6-2 in the No. 4 singles final. The No. 3 doubles championship won by Manoharan and Liu clinched the Spartans’ state berth; they claimed a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Middleton freshman Rose Ryan and sophomore Cece Hujanen.
Remesh earned a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Middleton freshman Abby Lin in the No. 3 singles final.
Zhou topped Madison West sophomore Abby Bremel 6-2, 7-5 in the No. 2 singles final — improving to 3-0 against Bremel this season, including defeating her in last week’s Big Eight tournament final.
The top four finishers at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles earned automatic berths for the Division 1 state individual tournament Oct. 11-13 at Nielsen. The winners at No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles also earned berths.
Madison West sophomore Maddi Bremel, Olson, Verona junior Meredith Conley and Sauk Prairie freshman Quinlyn Mack advanced to state after claiming quarterfinal victories at No. 1 singles.
Maddi Bremel — Abby Bremel’s twin — upended Olson 7-6 (3), 6-1 in the No. 1 singles title match. Maddi Bremel said she made fewer errors after losing two previous matches to Olson this season, including in the Big Eight tournament final.
“I was just making my shots,” said Bremel (28-7). “I just tried to get as far as I could and it is pretty cool I did win it.”
Said Madison West coach Ryan Reischel: “In the big points, Maddi was more aggressive. She played more balls to the forehand side because I think Grace has one of the best backhands in the state.”
Bremel topped Mack 6-2, 6-0 in one semifinal and Olson edged Conley 6-1, 0-6 (11-9) in the other.
“It feels so good (to win the sectional as a team),” said Olson (24-2). “I definitely wish I could have pulled that match out (against Bremel). But I just feel so great that the team really pulled through today. … It was great to get all these titles.”
Middleton’s No. 1 doubles team of senior Maddie Clark and sophomore Karsen Dettman (22-1) defeated Sauk Prairie seniors Camryn Ballweg and Taylor Breininger 6-0, 6-2 in the final.
“The state tournament is next week, so we have high hopes for that,” Clark said. “I think winning the sectional really helped us and it will help our seeding, too. It was one of our goals we had at the start of the season.”
Memorial’s Hubbard and Kamath and Madison West’s Spencer Harrison and Katie Goetz also advanced to state at No. 1 doubles. Clark and Dettman defeated Hubbard and Kamath 6-1, 7-6 (4) in a semifinal, while Ballweg and Breininger topped Harrison and Goetz 7-6 (11-9), 6-4 in the other.
"Being able to know who is moving forward and knowing how to anticipate where the ball is going really helps us, so we have each other's back," Dettman said.
Madison West junior Camille Vadas and sophomore Sophie Knigge earned a state berth, rallying for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Middleton’s Noor Rajpal and Jessica Pientka in the No. 2 doubles final.