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Waunakee's Sara Sowinski, Gretchen Lee advance in doubles at WIAA Division 1 state tennis tournament
WIAA STATE GIRLS TENNIS

Waunakee's Sara Sowinski, Gretchen Lee advance in doubles at WIAA Division 1 state tennis tournament

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LAKE GENEVA — The nerves were real.

Waunakee sophomore Gretchen Lee and senior Sara Sowinski could sense their tenseness during the first set of their opening Division 1 doubles match at the WIAA state girls tennis tournament Thursday.

“Before taking the court, we thought it was really surreal,” Lee said. “That’s why we were nervous. Once we worked through that, we started playing our game.”

After receiving a first-round bye, Sowinski and Lee (4-1) settled down for a 7-6 (2), 6-1 victory over Wales Kettle Moraine senior Kaitlyn Huebner and sophomore Maddie Blanchard (8-4) in a second-round match played outdoors at Lake Geneva Badger High School.

“The first set we were nervous,” Sowinski said. “We just breathed and took it one point at a time.”

The Sowinski-Lee duo and DeForest senior Samantha Fuchs were area players who moved on Thursday. Fuchs, the fourth seed in singles who received a first-round bye, dispatched Franklin freshman Mana Usui 6-1, 6-2 in the second round while playing indoors at Lake Geneva Tennis Club.

Due to COVID-19 reasons, the Division 1 tournament is in Lake Geneva and the Division 2 event in Kohler this year instead of at Nielsen Tennis Stadium on the University of Wisconsin campus.

Sowinski and Lee only began playing doubles together during postseason this year because Waunakee’s team was permitted to only play singles during the regular season due to health guidelines tied to COVID.

Sowinski savored advancing to Friday’s round of 16 after she and then-senior Trista Ripp won a first-round match before losing in the second round last year in Madison.

“This year, we technically got a bye, but one of my goals was to get further than last year,” Sowinski said. “It feels really good to be able to achieve that goal.”

Said Lee: “It’s very rewarding.”

Waunakee coach Chris Nuenthel said he encouraged Sowinski and Lee to play more aggressively and not worry about mistakes after they fell behind 5-4 in the first set.

“I think they just put extra pressure on themselves,” Nuenthel said. “I just tried to calm them down and told them, ‘Let’s have fun and play tennis. If you miss a shot, you miss a shot, and then move on.’ … They played an awesome tiebreak, a flawless tiebreak.”

Even though Fuchs (13-0) — a four-time state qualifier, who had a first-round bye — appeared calm, she said she felt nervous entering her match against Usui (14-7) and in the new state surroundings.

“I’m always going to have the nerves,” said Fuchs, adding she missed playing at Nielsen. “It does help playing the past few years. I’m used to playing at state a little more than if I was just a freshman.”

Fuchs and older sister Cecile Fuchs won the Division 1 state doubles title last year. Samantha Fuchs advanced to the second round in singles as a freshman and the round of 16 in singles as a sophomore.

Her round-of-16 opponent Friday will be Pewaukee freshman Addison Young.

“I played pretty well,” Fuchs said. “I was a little nervous about my serves, but they turned out to be OK.”

“I think it was a good first-round match,” DeForest coach Kristin Pachal said. “I think she was much more experienced than her opponent and that really showed. …

“Her opponent had a lot of potential. I see it. When she matures a little bit, she’s going to be a really tough player.

“I just thought Samantha kept her out of rhythm the whole time and it really showed. She never got in a groove.”

Usui had advanced with a first-round victory over Kenosha Indian Trail sophomore Lainy Ristau 6-3, 6-0.

Hartland Arrowhead junior Isabella Myers and senior Lexi Morgan (11-2) defeated Waunakee juniors Lexi Opsahl and Danielle Rogers 6-2, 6-2 in a second-round match.

Opsahl said she was surprised when she learned Monday she would replace junior Jadyn Statz at state. Nuenthel said Statz didn’t have symptoms but after sectionals she came in contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus. It was the first doubles match as a team for Opsahl and Rogers.

“I went from playing reserves (as Waunakee’s No. 11 singles player) to playing No. 2 doubles,” Opsahl said. “I was looking forward to Jadyn and Danielle going to state. I hope they can get back there next year.”

Said Rogers: “I was definitely a little disappointed, but I’m glad Lexi was willing to fill in. I’m proud we did as well as we did. I’m happy we got the chance.”

Waunakee freshman Claire Jaeger (13-1) dropped a 6-0, 6-0 second-round decision to Alex Moews (21-3), a junior from Milwaukee Divine Savior Holy Angels.

New Richmond sophomore Izzy Brinkman earned a 7-5, 4-6, 10-7 victory over Watertown senior Aubrey Schmutzler (12-6) in a first-round match.

Division 2

At Sports Core in Kohler, Watertown Luther Prep senior Alethia Schmidt (10-6) earned a first-round victory, downing Walworth Big Foot/Williams Bay sophomore Jameson Gregory (21-2) by a 6-3, 6-0 score.

Schmidt will take on defending state champion Baluck Deang (9-1), a senior from Madison Edgewood who is this year’s No. 1-seeded player, at 9 a.m. Friday. Deang drew a first-round bye.

In doubles play, Madison Edgewood sophomore Samantha Buchner and junior Maeve Shanahan (1-4) suffered a 6-1, 6-0 loss to La Crosse Aquinas seniors Amelia Topolski and Morgan Thill (13-2).

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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.

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