By Murray Gleffe
BROWN COUNTY – The Ashwaubenon and West De Pere girls’ tennis programs recently each won their respective conference championships.
The Jaguars compete in the Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC), while the Phantoms are members of the Bay Conference.
The WIAA Individual State Tournament is Oct. 14-16 at Nielsen Stadium in Madison.
Team state, also in Madison, is Oct. 22-23.
Eight teams qualify in Division 1 and 4 teams in Division 2.
A decade in the making
An early-season loss to Shawano nearly dashed West De Pere’s hopes of winning the Bay.
Down the stretch, the Phantoms ran the table, defeating New London, Green Bay East, Menasha, Fox Valley Lutheran and the thorn in their side for years, Xavier.
“Our early loss to Shawano was a turning point in our season,” West De Pere Head Coach Rachel Benn said. “From then on, the girls played with more energy and fire. Their determination brought us the title. Winning the Xavier match (4-3) inspired the girls they could be conference champions after several consecutive years of losing duals to them. Assistant Coach Bobby Hagenow and I were crunching numbers all day at the conference tournament and running multiple scenarios through our heads on how we could win. We knew it would come down to the end. Being my sixth year as head coach, we’ve finished a close second in multiple years. Winning the conference title meant the world to our team.”
The Phantoms got a huge lift from their No. 2 (Stacey Cloute) and No. 3 singles (Taylan Wagner) players.
The two combined were 38-9 during the regular season.
“The girls were big parts of our lineup,” Benn said. “Whenever we had close matches, they came up clutch. They put in maximum effort every match and were always willing to try new tactics on the court. (Cloute) started playing tennis shortly before her freshman year and has improved every year since then. She started at No. 4 singles and then quickly moved to No. 2 singles. (Wagner) is a great team player and has played many different spots in the lineup due to injuries or girls being gone. It’s been fun watching her game and confidence improve each year.”
West De Pere competed in the Manitowoc SubSectional, which included De Pere, Appleton North, Kimberly and Appleton East.
“I want to continue the expectation we give 110% on the court,” Benn said. “We want to work as hard as we can in practice and have the girls play as much as they can in the offseason. With our new athletic facilities, the girls have great opportunities to train on and off the court.”
The doubles team of Lorraine Qiu and Leah Goodman qualified for the state tournament as special qualifiers.
Jaguars go undefeated in FRCC
Meanwhile, Ashwaubenon punched its FRCC championship by defeating Green Bay Preble, 7-0.
It was the Jaguars’ first conference title since 2002.
Ashwaubenon, the fifth-ranked Division 1 team in the state, had wins over Verona, Madison West, Nicolet and Mequon Homestead during the season.
Two main contributors in singles were Aneesha Prathigudupu and Jordan Domnick at No. 3 and No. 4 singles, respectively.
The duo combined to go 52-1 on the season.
Puja Patel qualified for state with a 21-7 record.
In doubles, Delaney Christensen and Courtney Behnke competed at the top spot and compiled a 22-5 record, including a perfect 8-0 mark in the FRCC.
The duo qualified for the state tournament.
Mayghan Bongle and Karleigh Conradt compiled a 24-4 mark but didn’t qualify for state.
The Jaguars, who qualified for team state in 2019 and 2020, also qualified for team state this season and will face No. 4 Middleton in its first match.
Green Bay Southwest qualified for team state five seasons in a row (2009-13).
Other area state qualifiers – Division 1 singles
Khali Stephens, Bay Port; Sophia Fergus, De Pere.
Division 1 doubles
Mallory Kerhin/Janelle Novotny, Green Bay Southwest; Allison Roever/Julia Tackmier, Green Bay Southwest; Anna Harmann/Mia Fairbairn, De Pere.