By Robert Whitmire
Fresh off a big win over the No. 3 ranked Neenah Rockets on Sept. 26, the Panthers returned to the tennis courts at Wausau East and swept the Wisconsin Valley Conference Tennis Tournament, 6-0 on Thursday, Oct. 1.
“Sweeping the conference meet at every position was a major goal of ours,” said senior Susie DeBot. “We hope to continue our success next week at Eau Claire Memorial.”
SPASH finished their conference dual season with 80 points, well ahead of Wausau East (56) and Wausau West (52).
The Panthers No. 1 and No. 2 singles continued their season long unbeaten records. No. 1 singles Emily Leutschwager opened tournament play with a bye, then stepped on the court and dispatched D.C. Everest opponent Megan Ninneman, and Wausau East’s Sami Miles 6-0, 6-0 for the title.
The scenario was virtually the same at No. 2 singles, as it has been all season, with Sabrina Tang drawing the first round bye, then defeating Emily Names from Wausau West and taking the championship round 6-0, 6-0 over Savannah Carroll from Wausau East.
Kayla Stutesman posted wins over Zoe Gilmaster from Wisconsin Rapids, and Sara Gliniecki from Wausau East 6-0, 6-0 take the No. 3 singles title.
Freshman Leah Olsen continued her season’s strong play at No. 4 singles with wins over Claire Bizjak (Wausau West), and a 6-0, 6-0 win in the title round over Leah Blaskowski (Wausau East).
The Panthers No. 1 doubles team, Susie DeBot/Emily Meier, started their tournament run with a first round win over D.C. Everest’s Taylor Brzezinski/Cassidy Gennerman, then beat Kaity Hess/McKenzie Wentland from Wisconsin Rapids and Sarah Smoeyenbos-Lillia Teske (Wausau West) both in three set matches.
“My partner Emily Meier and I were put together just a few weeks ago,” said DeBot. “Taking the conference championship at #1 doubles was very exciting. We fought our way to victory in two very close 3-set matches and plan to fight just as hard next week.”
Madison DeBot and Taylor Konczal teamed up at No. 2 double to take the championship with a 6-4, 6-0 win over East’s Chloe Westberg/Quinn Lodholtz after earlier defeating Melanie McCluskey/Sidney Engman (Wisconsin Rapids) in a three set 8-6, 1-6, 6-3 match.
Rounding out the sweep were Lillie James/Kaylee Bruneau at No. 3 doubles with wins over Benna Stengl/Allie Reif (Wausau East) and a championship win over Kylie Rennie/Erin Achatz (Wausau West), 6-0, 6-2.
“I knew at the beginning of the season that we would be solid at the one, two and three singles” said Panther coach Gary Baier. “But, wow, Leah really has been impressive; it’s tough to get a win against us in singles. Our doubles are also really coming on and if we keep improving and stay aggressive, I’m confident in our double teams as well.”
The Panthers travel to Eau Claire Memorial on Wednesday to compete in the WIAA Tennis Sectional. SPASH, currently ranked No. 7 in the state, defeated Memorial earlier this season on the SPASH courts. The Old Abes were ranked No. 3 in the state at that time.
“Our key to success against Memorial has been our dominant singles lineup, and with our doubles teams stronger than ever, the sectional championship is well within reach,” Debot said.