Rhinelander’s Kat Metropulos hits a return against Stevens Point’s Tatum Thielman during a non-conference girls’ tennis match at the RHS tennis courts Tuesday, Sept. 10. Metropulos needed eight match points to defeat Thielman 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 and earn the clinching point in Rhinelander’s 5-2 victory over the Panthers. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
9/12/2019 7:33:00 AM Hodag netters edge SPASH again GNC showdown against Antigo ahead
For the second time in four days, the Rhinelander High School girls' tennis team on Tuesday took down a former Wisconsin Valley Conference nemesis - a needed shot in the arm with a current Great Northern Conference nemesis set to come to town this afternoon.
The Hodags won close matches at Nos. 2 and 4 singles, and No. 3 doubles, Tuesday to edge Stevens Point 5-2 in a non-conference dual at the RHS tennis courts. The result matched the score when the teams played this past Saturday in the Green Bay Southwest Invite.
"This felt quantitatively differently, these close, close matches that we had," coach Bob Heideman said.
The win moved Rhinelander to 13-7 overall on the season. The Hodags are 3-0 in the Great Northern Conference ahead of a pivotal showdown against Antigo today at the RHS tennis courts.
Tied at two matches apiece, Izzy Haverkampf and Jaiden Thiel won a second-set tiebreaker at No. 3 doubles to avoid a third set. Then Kat Metropulos bounced back from losing the second set 6-0 to take the third set at No. 4 singles and earn the decisive point in the dual. Kenedy Van Zile finished off a marathon three-set match at No. 2 singles moments later to close out the victory.
"I thought this was a match where matches were determined almost by a single shot. Really hitting pretty offensive shots at the right time served us well in this match. Beating Point twice is pretty sweet," Heideman said. "Point was hard enough to beat on Saturday, but today they raised their game more as far as getting balls back. They just didn't beat themselves. I think those offensive shots reflect that. We had to do something proactive to win the points."
Metropulos had the most seesaw battle taking on SPASH freshman Tatum Thielman. Metropulos won the first set 6-2, only to lose the second set at love. Metropulos seemed in control after holding serve in the seventh game of the third set to go up 5-2, but had trouble closing out Thielman, needing eight match points to get the job done. She lost the next game after being ahead 40-love, and the ninth game with a 40-15 lead. Up 40-love in the 10th game, Metropulos watched Theilman get back to 40-30 before she hit one long to end the match.
"I said to Kat after the match is that you can survive an 0-6 set and still win a match," Heideman said.
Haverkampf and Thiel took the first set from SPASH's Caroline Brinkman and Sabrina O'Keefe 6-4, but were down 4-5 in the second set. The Hodags won the next two games to go up 6-5, but could not hold serve in the 12th game, forcing a set tiebreaker. Up 4-3 in the tiebreaker, Rhinelander caught a break on a SPASH double fault and then got a strong service return winner from Thiel to pull ahead 6-3. They would eventually take the tiebreaker 7-3.
"Jaiden hits her best return of the match, right at the girl and she flubs it into the net and we win an easy point," Heideman said.
Van Zile cruised in the first set 6-1 against SPASH senior Estella Roerig, but dropped the second 6-4. The two players stayed on serve in the third set until Van Zile broke Roerig in the ninth game to pull ahead 5-4. Both players would break each other's serve in the next two games before Van Zile came up with a couple of key winners in the 12th game to win 7-5 and avoid a match-deciding tiebreaker.
"Kenedy's last cross court, short angle after a previous short angle. That was going for a winner and she hit it," Heideman said. "Kenedy, she was losing most of that third set, down a game, and I think the fact she had a comeback on Saturday helped today."
Rhinelander swept singles against a young SPASH team that featured five freshman starters. Annika Johnson was a 7-5, 6-1 winner of Jessica Kelman in the top flight while Kaylee Pontell took care of Abby Erwin, 6-3, 6-1 at No. 3.
"Kaylee had the easiest time of it, I think her scores were similar (on Saturday), maybe a game difference there," Heideman said. "Annika won this match in the first set, which was really close."
The Hodags had trouble against a senior-laden SPASH doubles lineup. Meghan DeBot and Anna Hlavac defeated Jackie Wells and Alex Oestreich, 6-1, 6-0 in the top flight. Leah Olsen and Allison Rust were 6-0, 6-1 winners over Rhinelander's Lisa White and Kathryn Borski at No. 2.
The Robins comes in to today's dual against the Hodags 2-0 in the GNC following a 5-2 win at Wausau Newman on Tuesday. It will be the first time the teams have met since Rhinelander took the conference title away from Antigo in a third-set tiebreaker in the final match of last year's conference tournament.
"It's been us and Antigo for how many years? It could be another chapter in that book," Heideman said. "I'm looking forward to it. I look down the line and I like what I see, but I think it's going to be a really close match."
The match is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. at the RHS tennis courts however - with rain in the forecast today - Heideman said the teams are tentatively planning to use Friday as a make-up date, if necessary.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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