Jacob Weddle, left, receives his awards from coach Bob Heideman during the Rhinelander High School boys’ tennis banquet Saturday, June 1 at Hodag Lanes. Weddle, who went 21-7 as a sophomore at No. 1 singles, was voted the team’s most valuable player. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander High School boys’ tennis team award winners pose for a photograph following the team’s banquet at Hodag Lanes Saturday, June 1. Pictured, from left to right, are Elijah Evers, Zach Thompson, Billy Berwig, Bridger Flory and Jacob Weddle. Award winner Luke Ring was unavailable for the photograph.
6/6/2019 7:32:00 AM Weddle earns Hodag boys' tennis MVP award
Jacob Weddle went from No. 3 on the team as a freshman to No. 1 as a sophomore.
It might not have been quite as big of a leap as recently inducted Hodag Hall of Famer Brad Schmidt made when he went from 13th to first between the 1986 and 1987 seasons, but Weddle's ascension to the top spot in the RHS boys tennis team's lineup this season was critical for the Hodags to win a sixth consecutive conference title.
Weddle was recognized for his efforts by being voted the team's most valuable player, an award presented to him during the team's banquet held this past Saturday at Hodag Lanes.
Weddle led the list of award winners for the Hodags, who celebrated a sixth consecutive Great Northern Conference championship season on Saturday. Weddle, the GNC singles player of the year, went 21-7 overall this season and was a sectional qualifier at No. 1 singles.
Coach Bob Heideman said the secret to Weddle's success this year was simple - hard work and dedication to the game both during the season and in the offseason.
"It took Jacob hours, and hours, and hours and some more hours to get to where he's at," Heideman said. "I know he's disappointed that he didn't make it to state. I think he came within a whisker, but didn't quite make it. I think that's going to burn in him - and make that's the value of it in terms of what he can achieve next year."
Weddle was one of six award winners on this year's squad, which included a mix of seniors and underclassmen. One of those seniors, Bridger Flory, won the team's most improved player award. After skipping his junior year of tennis to run track, Flory rejoined the team this spring and won a conference championship at No. 3 doubles.
"When Bridger joined the team, it was like a major piece of the puzzle fell into place," Heideman said. "Bridger has been out his sophomore year, so I knew what I was getting. Bridger on the court is just a ball of energy, running around. He was so eager to learn and his teammates saw that, I think, and that's why they voted him most improved."
Flory almost won the hustle award as well, Heideman said, but that distinction went to Flory's teammate at No. 3 doubles, sophomore Billy Berwig.
"For him to get Mr. Hustle, he had to hustle, because he was with Mr. Hustle II on the team, which is Bridger," Heideman said. "What Billy brings, in some ways it's a strange combination. His technique is unique, let me say that, in so many ways but it works for him on the court, I think because he has an innate competitive sense. That really helps in doubles. If you're a little aggressive and you can feel out the game, boy, it can get you points."
Another doubles team, the second pairing of freshmen Luke Ring and Elijah Evers, took home the three-setter netter award, which goes to the individual or doubles team that wins the most three-set matches during the course of the season. Heideman said part of the reason the two won the three-setter netter award is because it took both of them some time to get acclimated to playing together in doubles.
"Luke and Elijah were very surprised that I put them together in doubles this year, and a little concerned. They had always played singles. They had never played doubles," Heideman said. "I missed that. I did not see that they were that concerned. My concern was just molding them into a doubles team and we did. It took a while. I think it took some nervous matches at the beginning but, as it went on, they did very well.
Half of this year's varsity roster was comprised of seniors. Three of those seniors - Connor Young, Logan Oestreich and Russell Benoy - were recognized as team captains. Heideman also took a moment to reflect more on Young and Oestreich's trip last week to the WIAA Division 2 state doubles tournament.
"We're very proud of these guys. You're seeing an end product of their high school careers," he said. "They worked to get better every cotton-pickin' year and slowly, but surely, they did and it ended at the state tournament. What a great thing."
Another senior, Zach Thompson, took home the Kit Niensteadt sportsmanship award.
"Zach is, head and shoulders, the most polite individual," Heideman said. "He has absolutely no ego. With Zach, it's not about himself, it's about being part of the team and complementing other people. He's a great representative of that (award)."
Rhinelander was 15-8 in dual meets this year, including a perfect Great Northern Conference record. The Hodags scored a record 40 points at the conference tournament, winning championships in six of the seven flights, and placed third in the WIAA subsectional behind overall No. 1 seed for the WIAA team state tennis tournament, Notre Dame Academy, and Appleton Xavier.
"From just the angle of achievement, it was a great year," Heideman said.
Freelancer Bob Mainhardt contributed to this report.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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