Before the season even began, Madison West girls tennis coach Ryan Reischel said a razor-thin margin would determine the WIAA Division 1 Waunakee sectional champion.
Whichever team — Madison West, Madison Memorial or Middleton — performed the best that day would win the sectional and earn the team state berth, Reischel believed.
That day arrived Thursday. And the team champion wasn’t decided until the final match — the No. 1 singles championship — was completed in a super-tiebreaker third set at Nielsen Tennis Stadium.
Madison West junior Maddi Bremel claimed a 6-4, 4-6, 10-4 victory over Verona senior Meredith Conley, giving fourth-ranked Madison West the sectional title with 34 points — one point better than 10th-ranked Middleton.
“Today, by the slightest of margins, we had a great day,” Reischel said. “This isn’t a good day, this is a great day.”
Had Conley won, Middleton’s total of 33 would have edged West by one point. Madison Memorial, which won the sectional last year, finished third with 31.
“There was a lot of pressure,” said Bremel, the Big Eight Conference tournament winner at No. 1 singles who knew the sectional outcome was riding on her match. “(Conley) was playing super well. You had to earn every point. It was a matter of who was working harder, I guess.
“It was a really hard match. (In the third set), you had to make sure you didn’t give away any free points. Ten points decides the whole match, so you have to be on your `A’ game.”
Said Reischel: “She made a great adjustment and started hitting every ball to Meredith’s forehand. Meredith has probably the best backhand in the state. Maddi … made the in-match adjustment to go to the forehand, and we got some points that way.”
The Big Eight dual and tournament champion Regents, who also claimed titles at No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles, will advance to the WIAA team tournament Oct. 25-26 at Nielsen. They last reached team state in 2017.
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“The one thing I’ve been trying to tell my girls is play good tennis, hit good balls, hit good shots, don’t try to overdo it, and you’ll be great,” Reischel said. “If you hit great balls, you’ll be a great player, and we hit a lot of good balls today and it showed we are a great team.”
Regents junior Abby Bremel, Maddi’s sister, earned a pivotal 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 No. 2 singles victory over Madison Memorial senior and previously undefeated Julia Zhou.
Reischel said Abby Bremel, who earned an automatic berth to next week’s individual state tournament, had dropped five previous matches to Zhou.
“If we don’t win that match against a girl who was seeded higher than us, we aren’t going to team state,” Reischel said.
Said Abby Bremel: “It’s good (to play a familiar opponent) because you know how they play, but it’s stressful because I haven’t won when I’ve played her. I just made my shots and I didn’t get too down on myself when I missed. It was stressful because I knew I had to win if we wanted to go to state.”
West senior Camille Vadas and junior Sophie Knigge then won the No. 1 doubles title over Waunakee senior Trista Ripp and junior Sara Sowinski 6-2, 6-1. After Middleton’s No. 1 doubles team of senior Jessica Pientka and junior Noor Rajpal won the third-place match and kept the Cardinals in the team title hunt, the stage was set for the decisive No. 1 singles championship match.
Middleton junior Cece Hujanen and sophomore Rose Ryan won the No. 2 doubles title and an automatic state berth with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Verona seniors Mary Saley and Meghan Samz. Middleton seniors Nika Agapov and Anja Newcomer claimed a 6-4, 6-2 decision over Waunakee sophomores Danielle Rogers and Jadyn Statz in the No. 3 doubles final.
“We are very happy with how our girls performed,” Middleton first-year coach Terry Geurkink said. “They all performed to their maximum potential. We couldn’t have asked for anything more. It would have been wonderful to win it by a point, but that’s sports, and congratulations to Madison West. … Our doubles teams played just phenomenally well today.”
Madison Memorial won two flights: Undefeated sophomore Nikita Remesh topped Madison West sophomore Abby Lin 6-1, 6-2 at No. 3 singles and junior Jessica Jiang defeated Middleton junior Julia Zhang 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4 singles.
Other individual state qualifiers at No. 1 singles were Madison Memorial senior Grace Olson, who finished third, and Onalaska senior Alli Laux, who was fourth. The other state qualifiers at No. 1 doubles were Middleton’s Pientka and Rajpal and Onalaska’s Faith and Chloe Leithold, who placed fourth.