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Things to watch

Power struggle: The strong lineups at Madison Memorial and Madison West appear on a collision course this season, with Middleton also in the Big Eight Conference mix. Madison Memorial, led by 12th-year coach Joe King, won the Big Eight dual season with an 8-0 record and earned the conference tournament title in 2018. The Spartans, with six underclassmen, advanced to the WIAA Division 1 state team tennis semifinals, defeating Eau Claire Memorial 4-3 in the quarterfinals before falling to Milwaukee Divine Savior Holy Angels 4-3 in the semifinals. With its top four singles players returning — led by Grace Olson and Julia Zhou — and six starters and six letterwinners returning, the Spartans again should put a formidable lineup on the courts. “The Big Eight Conference will continue to be very deep and competitive, so we will have to work hard to repeat what happened last year,” King said. Madison West coach Ryan Reischel said area teams will look to knock off Memorial and believes his team, which has a potent singles lineup, has the capability of winning the conference and sectional titles. “It will probably come down to which team has the better day during the sectional,” Reischel said.

New leader at Madison Edgewood: Kara Amundson has taken over as the Madison Edgewood girls tennis coach, replacing Alex Mory, who said he wasn’t able to continue as coach because he took a job out of the city. Edgewood made its 11th team state appearance, including ninth in the past 10 years, last fall. University School of Milwaukee, the eventual WIAA Division 2 champion, topped Edgewood 7-0 in a semifinal. But Watertown earned the Badger South championship, ending Edgewood’s nine-year reign of winning outright or sharing the South title.

Sister power: For the second consecutive season, DeForest came away with the overall Badger Conference tournament crown in the two-day event, totaling 40 points, and was the Badger North divisional champion (winning tournament and dual titles) in 2018. “We should be a strong team again this year,” Norskies coach Kristin Pachal said. The Norskies have featured a strong singles lineup in recent years with sisters Cecile and Samantha Fuchs and Leah Miller. Samantha Fuchs and Miller defended their No. 2 and No. 3 singles titles at the conference tournament and Cecile Fuchs finished as runner-up at No. 1 singles in 2018. But conference coaches anticipate that Cecile Fuchs, a senior, and Samantha Fuchs, a junior, will join forces to become a formidable doubles team this season. “DeForest could have the next Division 1 state doubles champs in Cecile and Sam Fuchs,” Waunakee coach Chris Nuenthel said. “They will be fun to watch this season.”

Players to watch

Grace Olson, sr., Madison Memorial: Olson was the Big Eight Conference tournament No. 1 singles champion and reached the quarterfinals at WIAA Division 1 individual state after being seeded fourth. Olson helped Memorial win the Big Eight title and reach team state.

Baluck Deang, jr., Madison Edgewood: Deang was the Badger Conference tournament No. 1 singles champion and a Division 2 sectional winner. Deang, seeded fifth, finished fourth at Division 2 individual state.

Maddi Bremel, jr., Madison West: Bremel, seeded ninth in singles, was 30-8 after reaching the round of 16 at Division 1 state. She was a sectional champion, topping Olson.

Meredith Conley, sr., Verona: Conley was seeded 13th in singles and advanced to the second round at Division 1 state, finishing 24-5.

Cecile Fuchs, sr., DeForest: Fuchs, the Badger Conference tournament No. 1 singles runner-up, won her first state match. Cecile and sister Samantha opened this season earning the No. 1 doubles title at the Dane Country Invitational.

Samantha Fuchs, jr., DeForest: Fuchs, the Badger Conference tournament No. 2 singles champion for two consecutive years, won two matches at state last year. She lost to eventual Division 1 state champion Bojana Pozder of Racine Case in third round.

Abby Bremel, jr., Madison West: Abby Bremel, sister of Maddi Bremel, played No. 2 singles for the Regents, won her first match at state and finished 31-6.

Lauren Hope Bruemmer, jr., Sun Prairie: After reaching state in doubles with Kaia Feldman last season, Bruemmer hopes to make a splash in singles at the state tournament this season. She was the No. 1 singles winner at the Dane County Invitational Aug. 17.

Karsen Dettman, jr., Middleton: Dettman started this season at No. 1 singles after she and now graduated Maddie Clark reached the WIAA Division 1 doubles final at the individual state tournament last year.

Hailey Munz, sr., Monona Grove: Munz, who won a state championship playing doubles in 2017, won a match in singles at individual state last year. She began this season playing doubles.

Julia Zhou, sr., Madison Memorial: Zhou won the No. 2 singles titles at the Big Eight and sectional tournaments and won a match at individual state.

Quinlyn Mack, so., Sauk Prairie: Mack returns after qualifying for state during a strong freshman season.

Conference previews

(Based on information from coaches)

BIG EIGHT

Overview: Big Eight coaches expect Madison Memorial, Madison West and Middleton to compete for the conference crown. “Those three teams are absolutely loaded with talent,” Verona coach Mark Happel said.

Madison Memorial: The defending conference champion Spartans, a team-state qualifier last year, hope to have another strong season and compete for another team state appearance. Coach Joe King said Madison Memorial’s singles players finished 32-0 in the eight conference duals in 2018. And the Spartans’ top four singles players — seniors Grace Olson (No. 1) and Julia Zhou (No. 2), sophomore Nikita Remesh (No. 3) and junior Jessica Jiang (No. 4) — return. Olson and Zhou will hope to make return trips to state and Remesh also will seek to qualify for individual state. The Spartans must replace their top two doubles teams. Janna Liu and Meera Manoharan played No. 3 doubles last year and are in line to play at a higher spot this year. Jiang could move into the doubles lineup. Zhou and Remesh were singles winners at the Dane County Invitational Aug. 17.

Madison West: Coach Ryan Reischel’s team has a strong lineup, featuring seven returning starters and nine returning letterwinners. The Regents look particularly strong in singles, led by sisters Maddi and Abby Bremel (who are juniors), sophomore Abby Linn (a transfer who played singles at Middleton last year) and senior Lucy Friedman. They provide depth and consistent play, Reischel said. “Our singles lineup will be one of the toughest in the state,” Reischel said. Senior Camille Vadas and junior Sophie Knigge form a top-notch doubles duo. “They serve and return very well and have a very strong net presence,” Reischel said. Senior Ashley Valle and juniors Suzanne Oriel and Meredith Gallagher are in the hunt for doubles spots, with Oriel expected to play No. 2 doubles.

Middleton: The Cardinals have a new coach in Terry Geurkink. Six letterwinners and five starters return, but the Cardinals’ roster will need revamping. Five doubles players return, but no singles players are back. So, Middleton faces a challenge to develop its singles lineup. Karsen Dettman and now graduated Maddie Clark reached the WIAA Division 1 doubles final at the individual state tournament last year. Dettman, a junior, started the season playing No. 1 singles. After a strong season last year, Jessica Pientka, a three-year varsity player and a senior captain, and doubles partner, junior Noor Rajpal, might move from No. 2 doubles to No. 1 doubles this season. Junior Cece Hujanen and sophomore Rose Ryan had a successful season at No. 3 doubles last year.

Verona: Six starters return for 16th-year coach Mark Happel, whose team finished fourth in league play in 2018 and believes a top-four team finish again is possible. Senior Meredith Conley, the Wildcats’ No. 1 singles player since she was a freshman, tops the lineup. Happel is looking for strong performances from seniors Mary Saley, Meghan Samz, Sydney Breitbach and Kasie Keyes. Sophomores Elsa Queoff and Samantha Breitbach also should contribute.

Sun Prairie: Junior Lauren Hope Bruemmer will lead Sun Prairie, which has seven returning starters and a new coach in Sandee Ortiz. Ortiz, who coached boys and girls tennis at Delavan-Darien since 1998, replaces Chris Wilke, who stepped down. “I am thrilled to be working with such a dynamic group of hard workers,” Ortiz said. Bruemmer opened the season winning the Dane County Invitational No. 1 singles title. “Lauren packs the punch and plays aggressively,” Ortiz said. The rest of the Cardinals’ singles lineup is expected to include seniors Kanitta Fakthong and Mackenzie Shanahan and sophomore Alexandra Stein. Ortiz is looking at senior Kaia Feldman, who was a state qualifier in doubles with Bruemmer last year, and junior Reena Katta to play No. 1 doubles this season. “They have great court demeanor and are strategic in their approach,” Ortiz said. Seniors Emma Dorn and Jordan White will start the season at No. 2 doubles and juniors Abbie Mott and Brynn Boutelle at No. 3 doubles.

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Madison La Follette: Senior singles player Claire Schmitt leads five returning starters for Lancers coach Nan Perschon, in her 29th year. Perschon said the Lancers have added German foreign-exchange student Loreen Bischof, expected to play No. 1 singles. La Follette’s lineup will be young and lacking varsity experience, though the singles players will have more experience than the doubles duos. Perschon said she was “encouraged by seeing more girls playing in the offseason.”

Madison East: Andrew Johnson, the Purgolders’ boys tennis coach, begins his first season coaching East’s girls team. “It looks like we are a team with a lot of potential,” Johnson said. Amelia Hoffman, Naomi Monat and Sa Dee Decorah are top returning singles players, Johnson said. Also returning are doubles players Kelly Carroll, Callie Paulowski and Kekali Yawo. “I am working toward establishing a culture of success, where all tennis players feel welcomed and that they are willing to work hard and put in the time to improve at tennis inside and outside of the season,” said Johnson, who previously coached boys and girls tennis in Tomah.

BADGER NORTH

Overview: DeForest is the favorite to repeat as Badger North champion. Waunakee, Beaver Dam (led by state-qualifier Morgan Nelson, a senior) and Sauk Prairie (led by state-qualifier Quinlyn Mack, a sophomore) will challenge.

DeForest: Coach Kristin Pachal’s team was undefeated in Badger North dual matches last year and won the Badger North and the Badger Conference tournament for the second consecutive year. Six starters return, led by sisters Cecile and Samantha Fuchs, whom Pachal said will anchor the Norskies’ lineup. Cecile Fuchs, a senior, and Samantha Fuchs, a junior, have qualified for state as singles players, but they opened the season by playing together and winning the Dane County Invitational No. 1 doubles title. Senior Leah Miller moved up from No. 3 singles to No. 1 singles for that tournament. The Norskies will have lineup flexibility to play the Fuchs sisters at No. 1 and No. 2 singles or at No. 1 doubles through the season. Seniors Mikayla Beckman and Amber Fabian and junior Lauren Armstrong also should contribute.

Waunakee: Coach Chris Nuenthel welcomes back seven starters and the lineup should have quality depth in singles and doubles. Jena Opsahl, whom Nuenthel described as a “smart, steady player,” played No. 2 singles last year and likely will move to No. 1 singles. Sara Sowinski and Trista Tripp return as the Warriors’ No. 1 doubles team. Other starters returning include Jadyn Statz and Danielle Rogers, who played No. 3 and No. 4 singles, respectively, and Alli Larsen and Eliza Endres, who played No. 3 doubles. Nuenthel believes freshman Gretchen Lee could make the lineup. 

Sauk Prairie: Second-year coach Heather Slosarek has five starters returning after the Eagles compiled a 15-4 overall record and finished second during the Badger North dual season. Despite rebuilding the lineup, Slosarek believes her team will compete at the top of the conference again this season. Sophomore and state-qualifier Quinlyn Mack will be back at No. 1 singles. “She lives and breathes tennis, and her tremendous dedication to the sport only builds her skill level exponentially,” Slosarek said. Italian foreign-exchange student Gaia Citro, a senior, is expected to play No. 2 singles and senior Jordan O’Connor begins the season at No. 3 singles. Seniors Aimee Maasch and Haley Greenheck, juniors Camdyn Kastelitz and Hannah Helt, and seniors Grace Fauerbach and Emily Querio likely will form doubles teams.

Portage: Sarah Pulliam, in her 14th year as coach, anticipates that junior Britta McKinnon will be the team’s No. 1 singles player. The rest of the lineup is being determined; McKenna Bisch, Anna Tamboli, Riley Wood, Izzy Krueger, Molly Voigt and Kylie Owens are returning players.

BADGER SOUTH

Overview: Monona Grove, Watertown and Madison Edgewood are expected to again battle for the top spots in the conference.

Monona Grove: Senior Hailey Munz leads the Silver Eagles, who were 7-0 in Badger South dual meets last year. Munz, part of the state champion WIAA Division 1 doubles team with Amanda Newman in 2017 and a state qualifier who reached the second round last year, leads the singles lineup. The entire singles lineup of Munz and seniors Jewell Lindwall, Payton Lee and Maelia Dziedzic is back for Silver Eagles’ 10th-year coach John Willauer, whose team has six letterwinners and six starters returning. The singles lineup was 98-32 last year. However, Munz and Lee played No. 1 doubles at this season’s opening Dane County Invitational and finished second to DeForest’s Fuchs sisters. Senior Colleen Ross and sophomore Eva Khamphouy also are expected to contribute for the Silver Eagles.

Watertown: The Goslings turned in a strong showing at the Badger Conference tournament last year and won the Badger South title, ending Madison Edgewood’s reign. It was Watertown’s first conference title in program history. Six letterwinners return for ninth-year coach Andy Dobbins. Aubrey Schmutzler, a junior, returns at No. 1 singles. Dobbins said Schmutzler is working to dictate play more and increase her aggressiveness, and believes she is in line for an outstanding season. “She uses her quickness and strength to cover the court and stay in points,” Dobbins said. “I love her attitude on the court.” Junior Sydney Linskens and Abby Marr, who played No. 2 doubles last year, likely will move into the No. 1 doubles spot. Dobbins likes their chemistry as a duo. “From the end of last season, I knew they would be ready for this, and they have shown they belong there,” Dobbins said. Others who figure to contribute are seniors Alayna Clark and Hannah Baneck and junior Mya Werning.

Madison Edgewood: First-year coach Kara Amundson has seven returning starters. Baluck Deang returns atop the singles lineup. Amundson said Deang “has a powerful game and I’m hoping she can do some damage at state this year.” Lizzie Drake, a senior this season, teamed with then-senior Kinsey Kessel in doubles, won a Division 2 sectional, earned the eighth seed in doubles at state and reached the Division 2 state quarterfinals. Kelly Smith, now a senior, and Sarah Dunn, a junior, won their first match at state in doubles last year.

Fort Atkinson/Cambridge: Coach Mike DeRubeis, in his 15th season, has seven starters returning. This will be the first year of the Fort Atkinson/Cambridge co-op, he said. DeRubeis said he is hoping his team continues the upward competitive trend it demonstrated last year, when it claimed its first conference win in four years. “The girls bought in last year and it showed on and off the court,” he said. Senior Klaire Trieloff and junior Olivia Granec are expected to top the singles lineup. Seniors Megan Baker Lauren Lemke and Federica Peschiera (a foreign-exchange student), juniors Brynn Torrenga, Angela Unate and Christa Sebranek, sophomores Ester Jones and Sarah Holzi and freshman Sierra Jelinek (from Cambridge) are among those in the mix for playing time.

Stoughton: Second-year coach Amy Kahl had 45 players out for tennis and welcomes 11 letterwinners and seven returning starters, who will be moving up and playing new positions. The top of the singles lineup will be led by junior Annika Goetz and senior Karlie Halverson, both switching back to singles after playing doubles last year. Others playing singles are expected to be seniors Savanna Strutzel and Fiona Prechel. Doubles candidates include seniors Katie Zacharias, Taylor Nisius, Morgan Schellin and Elizabeth Balthazar and Lexi Abing and junior Paige Bellefeuille.

Monroe: Seniors Jensen Christensen and Grace Tostrud, Division 2 state qualifiers as a doubles team last year, return at No. 1 doubles for the Cheesemakers.

CAPITOL

Lake Mills: Sixth-year coach Cam Dary is excited about the prospects for this season after the L-Cats claimed the conference title a year ago and return eight starters. “This team has the potential to be the best team I have coached in Lake Mills by a significant margin,” Dary said. “They have already put in a ton of work in the offseason to get to this point, and from here maintaining their high level of play during increased competition will be the key.” Jena Smith returns for her third year at No. 1 singles. Sophomore Isabel Retrum is back at No. 2 singles. Senior Mia Kroll could play singles or doubles. Dary expects sophomore Gabby Mahr, who has a big serve and solid volleys, to excel in doubles, and was paired with Julianna Wagner early in the season. Dary anticipates that Watertown Luther Prep and Lodi will be chief challengers.

ROCK VALLEY

McFarland: Spartans coach Tod Lacey has an experienced team, which returns seven starters and will pursue the Rock Valley title — with East Troy and Whitewater expected as top challengers. He said McFarland will hope to challenge Madison Edgewood in sectional action. Seniors Michelle Butcher, the team’s No. 1 singles player, and Lexi Mazzara, this season’s Dane County Invitational winner at No. 4 singles, will be co-captains. Senior Aeryn Olson and freshman Laura Maudlin are in the singles lineup and seniors Grace Henes and Greta Corcoran lead the doubles lineup.

Events to watch

Conference tournaments: Rock Valley Conference, Sept. 26 at UW-Whitewater; Badger Conference, Sept. 27-28 at Nielsen Tennis Stadium; Capitol Conference, Sept. 28 at Beaver Dam Wayland Academy; Big Eight Conference, Oct. 2-3 at Nielsen Tennis Stadium.

WIAA subsectionals: Oct. 7-8.

WIAA sectionals: Oct. 9-10.

WIAA individual state tournament: Oct. 17-19 at Nielsen Tennis Stadium.

WIAA team state tournament: Oct. 25-26 at Nielsen Tennis Stadium.

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.