MINOCQUA - Three members of the Rhinelander High School boys tennis team have advanced to the sectional round of the WIAA tournament.
The Hodags advanced top singles player Jacob Weddle and No. 1 doubles team Connor Young and Logan Oestreich out of the subsectional round of the WIAA Division 2 tournament Monday in Minocqua.
Those were the only flights that survived for the Hodags in a tough D2 bracket that included Notre Dame Academy and Appleton Xavier from the eastern portion of the state. Rhinelander finished tied for third in the nine-team bracket behind those two teams, which both advanced to sectionals in all seven flights.
"It played out pretty much as we expected," Hodag coach Bob Heideman said. "Notre Dame was probably head and shoulders better than any team here. And I think Xavier (is) head and shoulders better than any team below them.
"We got the seeds we thought we would get and, within the backdrop of those two teams being the best, we played about as expected. I think the scores of our second matches kind of bear that out. Even if we had played our best tennis of the season, I don't know if we could have won some of those matches."
Players in the top flight in both singles and doubles needed to win only one match Monday to advance, while players in the lower draws needed to win two matches to move on. Rhinelander finished 5-5 overall on the day.
Weddle and the team of Young and Oestreich both received No. 3 seeds in their draws and went head-to-head with opponents from GNC rival Pacelli. Young and Oestreich had a relatively easy time defeating Jasper Zhou and Ben Kroening in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1.
"I think they're playing some pretty good tennis," Heideman said of his top doubles pairing. "I'm pleased. They're just not making foolish mistakes. They're hitting spots when they need to, hitting with pace when they need to, just a real smart kind of game."
Weddle seemed to be on his way as well, after sweeping Charlie Kulick 6-0 in the first set, but Weddle struggled in the second, which eventually worked its way into a tiebreaker. Down 4-5 in the tiebreaker, Weddle won the final three points to take the match and avoid a decisive third set.
Heideman said its not uncommon for the higher seed to have some nervous moments in the subsectional and pointed back to a scary moment Rhinelander senior Markus Johnson had in the subsections last year before eventually making it to the WIAA state meet.
"He plays a guy in the sub from Antigo who he's beaten two or three times during the season and they guy wins a set and is up in the third set. Markus, you could just see the tension," Heideman said. "It happens. But, what I'm hoping is the tension (happened) this match, and the next one not."
Rhinelander was one win away from sectionals at Nos. 3 and 4 singles and No. 2 doubles.
Senior Freddy Wisner defeated sixth-seeded Alex Ullrich at St. Mary's Catholic in the first round, but lost to Xavier's Andrew Minorik, 6-0, 6-2 in the second round.
"In the first match, Freddy played some of his best match of the season and then, in the second match, he just met someone who was too strong," Heideman noted.
Ian Conkey faced former teammate Joey Sturzl, who transferred to St. Mary's last fall, in the first round and defeated him 6-1, 6-0. Conkey lost to Xavier's Ian Mettelmann 7-5, 6-2 in the second round. Elijah Evers and Luke Ring were 6-3, 6-2 winners over Shawano's Wyatt Theis and Rhian Rodenbeck in the first round at No. 2 doubles, but lost 6-2, 6-0 in the second match to Xavier's Cameron Severson and Johnny Horak.
Russell Benoy, the fourth-seed at No. 2 singles, was knocked off by St. Mary's Gavin Bergstrom 7-6, 6-3 in the first match and the No. 3 doubles team of Bridger Flory and Billy Berwig was a late scratch after Flory, a senior, sustained a pre-match injury and was unable to compete.
"Bridger's such a competitor and what he's meant to our team, it's a shame that it ended that way," Heideman said.
Rhinelander's sectional qualifiers were in Kohler Wednesday morning, competing for a spot in the WIAA state tournament, however both entries dropped their first match.
Weddle (20-6) lost to Kohler's George Palof (11-13), 6-3, 6-3; while Young and Oestreich (17-8) fell to Manitowoc Roncalli tandem of Alex Schermetzler and Steffen Lipski (14-3) 6-3, 6-3. The winners of those matches automatically advanced to the WIAA state tournament.
A full report on sectionals will be published in Saturday's River News.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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