The Rhinelander High School girls' tennis team played its toughest competition of the season in Wausau over the weekend.
The Hodags finished 2-3 in the Wausau Invite. Rhinelander was 2-1 on Friday with wins over Marshfield and Chippewa Falls offsetting a loss to Wausau East. On Saturday the Hodags lost matches to Madison Memorial and Ashwaubenon.
"In Wisconsin, the further south the high school, the better the tennis," Hodag coach Bob Heideman said. "We certainly found that to be true this weekend. East, Ashwaubenon and Memorial were better than us, as the scores indicate. I thought we played solid tennis and the shots kept coming back. If we get better for it, it was worth it."
Rhinelander's wins were a pair of 6-1 results over two sectional opponents - Marshfield and Chippewa Falls.
With Kenedy Van Zile out of the lineup Friday, the Hodags used a slightly different combination in singles with success.
Against Marshfield, Kat Metropulos stepped up to the second flight and secured a 6-2, 6-2 win over Caitly Christensen. Kaylee Pontell played No. 2 against Chippewa Falls and was a 6-0, 6-1 winner over Maria Friedel.
The Hodags swept singles against Marshfield, with Annika Johnson, Metropulos, Pontell and Taylor Riopel securing the wins. Rhinelander also got wins from Jackie Wells and Alex Oestreich at No. 1 doubles, and the No. 2 doubles team of Lisa White and Kathryn Borski.
Rhinelander swept the doubles matches against Chippewa Falls with Wells and Oestreich, White and Borski and Izzy Haverkampf and Jaiden Thiel. Johnson, Pontell and Metropulos won in singles against the Cardinals.
Pontell suffered her first loss of the season Saturday against Ashwaubenon, falling to Melanie Lamon in straight sets. She went a team best 4-1 over the weekend to improve her record to 14-1 overall on the season.
"Kaylee is covering the courts better and her serve is better," Heideman noted.
Metropulos was second best on the team with a 3-1 record. She and Pontell scored the team's only wins Saturday against Madison Memorial.
"Kat's stock went up this weekend," Heideman said. "She doesn't beat herself, she gets a lot of balls back."
White and Borski were 3-2 at No. 2 doubles, with all three of their wins coming on Friday. Johnson finished 2-3 at No. 1 singles, as did Wells and Oestreich at No. 1 doubles. The No. 3 doubles team of Haverkampf and Thiel went 1-4, including a three-set loss to Madison Memorial. The tandem also lost a tiebreaker to force a third set against Marshfield and had Rhinelander's closest match against Ashwaubenon, a 7-5, 6-4 loss.
"Izzy and Jaiden had a lot of close sets," Heideman said. "Their shot selection got better as the weekend wore on. They can be competitive with all teams they have faced."
Fifteen matches into the season, the Hodags sit at 11-4 15, off their pace from last year when they started 14-1 en route to a 22-4 overall record.
"With 15 matches in, which is more than half our total matches, some patterns are starting to emerge -what positions are we strong at, which ones are consistent, were we need work," Heideman said.
Rhinelander is a perfect 3-0 in the GNC and will return to conference play Thursday when it hosts Wausau Newman at the RHS tennis courts. The Hodags beat the Cardinals 6-1 last month in a non-conference meeting in Wausau.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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