Close matches were the norm over the weekend for the Rhinelander High School girls' tennis team in Green Bay. The Hodags won only one of them, but still finished in fourth place overall at the Green Bay Southwest Invite.
The win was a 5-2 victory over Stevens Point. The other three matches were close 4-3 defeats to Southwest, Waunakee and Verona.
"On the bright side we finished fourth, which is or highest finish ever in this tournament - and did it on the back of a win over Stevens Point, which we have not beaten in about seven years," coach Bob Heideman said. "After that, repeatedly close was the pattern. In any given match we couldn't get that critical fourth win. But there was enough solid play throughout the day that we can build on this going forward."
The closest of the three losses was against Green Bay Southwest, where the Hodags lost three-set matches at Nos. 2 and 3 singles, and No. 2 doubles, after taking the first set in all three flights. Kenedy Van Zile fell to Siera Belle 2-6, 6-3, 6-4; Kaylee Pontell lost to Emma Klug 5-7, 6-0, 6-1 and Lisa White and Kathryn Borski lost to Janelle Novotny and Mallory Kerhin, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3.
Junior Kat Metropulos went undefeated in the three matches she played, including a come from behind 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 win over Stevens Point's Caroline Blakeman at the No. 4 singles position.
"She is getting stronger by the match. We will need that to continue," Heideman noted.
Van Zile went 3-1 at No. 2 singles, the three-set loss against Green Bay Southwest her only defeat. Jaiden Thiel and Izzy Haverkampf also went 3-1 at No. 3 doubles.
"Kenedy had an up and down weekend but overall I like where she's at," Heideman said.
"(Van Zile) works her opponents around the court well and then the points often come down if she can place her last shot," Heideman continued. "She had a major comeback win against Waunakee. After losing the first set 0-6, she came back to win a close second set 7-5 and then got stronger in the tiebreaker winning 10-4.
She followed that up with a solid 6-0, 6-1 win against Verona.
"Izzy and Jaiden are playing smarter doubles, especially at the net where their volleys are much more effective," the coach said.
Rhinelander got two wins each out of Annika Johnson at No. 1 singles and Kaylee Pontell at No. 3 singles.
"As a sophomore Annika is learning what it's like to go up against the opponents best player match after match," Heideman said. "She is doing a good job of absorbing that and moving her game forward."
The weekend duals brought Rhinelander's overall record to 12-7 on the season.
The Hodags get a rematch with Stevens Point this afternoon ahead of a pivotal Great Northern Conference showdown against Antigo on Thursday. Both matches will be held at the RHS tennis courts. Today's varsity matches against Stevens Point will begin at 3:30 p.m., with JV matches to follow.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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