As Coach Bob Heideman and the Rhinelander High School girls' tennis team begin their 2017 season they already have a big task in front of them. The Hodags lost seven starting seniors to graduation and are looking to pick up where they left off as they seek their eight consecutive Great Northern Conference title.
With convincing GNC titles in the past seven seasons, Rhinelander faces several challenges as we look ahead to the fall season. The Hodags only return their starters from No. 3 and No. 4 singles, as well as No. 3 doubles. This leaves plenty of question marks and openings to battle for positions.
Rhinelander will have to replace top two flights in singles; Ivy Packard and Kristina Jacobson. As well as their top two flights in doubles; Erica Counter/Ali Schickert (No. 1 doubles), and Hannah Stroede/Katie Krueger (No. 2 doubles).
Senior Belinda Weddle will return to singles action after earning a GNC champion title at No. 3 singles the past two seasons. And also returning for the Hodag singles will be sophomore Alex Oestreich who earned second in the GNC at No. 4 singles last season.
Senior Livi Roberts and junior Haley Seefeldt will also be returning to the varsity lineup for Rhinelander after earning a conference title at No. 3 doubles in 2016. Although the Hodags' return four players from their varsity starting lineup last season, they still have several underclassmen battling for starting positions
There will be a few juniors in runnings including Alexis Pyrchalla, Emma Roberts, and Savannah Chartier. But the Hodag sophomore class also has sever netters pushing for a varsity role. Sophomores include Izzy Haverkampf, Madi Losch, Jaiden Thiel, Kenedy Van Zile, Jackie Wells, and Lisa White.
With practice underway, the RHS girls' tennis team will have to figure out missing pieces to their lineup as they are on the road today for a scrimmage held at Wausau West. The two-day invite at Wausau will be held Monday and Tuesday.
Rhinelander will have a busy week ahead and will be on the road again on Thursday as they open up their Great Northern Conference season at Marshfield and will face Columbus Catholic in a doubleheader.
With no rest, Rhinelander will have their home opener Friday and will host the Hodag Quad at the RHS Tennis Courts and will face Ashland, Ironwood, and Merrill.
Although the Hodags have big roles to fill if they want to battle for yet another GNC title, they are optimistic about this young squad. Looking at the conference race, Antigo will more than likely be the biggest challenge of the GNC race, but Lakeland cannot be overlooked as well.
The Rhinelander High School girls' tennis team continued to dominate the Great Northern Conference for the fall 2016 season and earned their seventh consecutive conference title. Here is a look back at the Hodags and Coach Bob Heideman's accomplishments this season as well as what to look forward to in 2017.
Rhinelander finished the year with an impressive 20-4 overall record in dual meets, which included going perfect at 10-0 in the GNC standings. Despite not sending anyone to the WIAA state tennis meet, the Hodags still advanced two netters to sectionals; Ivy Packard and Belinda Weddle.
Not only was winning seven straight GNC titles a great accomplishment, but Coach Heideman also hit some important milestones in his coaching career. On September 10th, RHS defeated Medford at the RHS tennis courts and it also marked Heideman's 200th win in his 18th season as the girls' tennis coach. If you include the boys' victories, Heideman will only be seven wins shy of reaching 500 career wins.
RHS started the year in a non-conference invite held in Wausau and finished undefeated at 3-0 on the day. The Hodags had two close finishes, but was able to edge Newman Catholic and Wausau East in matching 4-3 duals. And Rhinelander then blanked D.C. Everest 7-0. And that momentum would carry over to their GNC schedule.
The Hodags opened the conference schedule with a doubleheader sweep of 7-0, 7-0 against Columbus Catholic and would from there, never looked back.
Rhinelander's biggest challenge in the conference would prove to be Lakeland, but RHS was still able to defeat the Thunderbirds in match 5-2 duals each time they faced in 2016.
Early in September the Hodags took part in the Green Bay Southwest Invite, and would face fierce non-conference competition. RHS would finish 1-3, with their only win coming against Marshfield in a 7-0 dual. Rhinelander would fall to Green Bay Southwest (7-0), Stevens Point (5-2), and Sheboygan North (4-3).
In their final two conference duals, the Hodags defeated Lakeland on the road and downed Antigo 6-1, giving RHS a perfect GNC record going in to the conference meet.
At the GNC meet that was held at the RHS tennis courts, Rhinelander nearly clenched the title before the meet began, earning four No. 1 seeds and three second seeds.
RHS was able to edge out Lakeland by seven points on the day, and would finish with a 33-point win in the overall GNC standings with 160 points. In the process, the Hodags also won championship titles at three flights and were runner up in the remaining four flights.
Senior Kristina Jacobson earned the No. 2 singles championship titled after defeated 2015 WIAA state qualifier Ali Bogner 6-3, 6-1 in the finals. It also marked Jacobson second straight title.
Teammate Belinda Weddle also earned her second consecutive GNC title, this time at No. 3 singles. In the finals Weddle battled to a 6-3, 7-5 victory of Lakeland's Riley Curtis.
And at No. 3 doubles, the Hodag duo of junior Livi Roberts and sophomore Haley Seefeldt battled to a GNC title, but need a tough three-setter against Antigo to advance to the finals. In the championship match Seefeldt and Roberts downed Medford's Lauryn Strick and Karlee Batchelder 6-3, 6-1 for the title.
Senior Ivy Packard at the number one flight earned a runner up finish in the GNC after falling to foreign exchange student, Elodie Martin of Lakeland in the finals. It also marked the third time this season Packard dropped to Martin, and also was the only player to defeat Packard in the GNC in her four varsity years.
Freshman Alex Oestreich at No. 4 singles, also finished second in the conference, after falling to Morgan Ahrens of Lakeland in the finals.
Rhinelander's first and second flights at doubles also were runners up in the GNC meet. Seniors Ali Schickert and Erica Counter were defeated by Medford's Rylee Anderson and Emily Shipman in the finals. The Hodag duo's lone conference loss in 2016 came to Shipman and Anderson early in the season.
And at No. 2 doubles, seniors Katie Krueger and Hannah Stroede made it to the finals in the GNC meet, but would come up short against Antigo in the finals.
All Rhinelander varsity players earned all-conference recognition on Saturday, based on the outcome of the GNC tournament. Jacobson, Weddle, Seefeldt, and Roberts all claimed first team honors. And Packard, Oestreich, Counter, Schickert, Krueger, and Stroede all earned second team all-conference honors.
What stood out for the RHS girl's tennis team during the 2016 season was their senior leadership. The Hodags varsity lineup had six seniors; Packard, Jacobson, Counter, Schickert, Krueger, and Stroede. The six seniors were also part of an elite group who earned four straight GNC titles.
The RHS girls' tied for third at the Division 1 Sub-sectionals held at Wausau West and advanced two Hodags on to sectionals in Stevens Point. Rhinelander 2015 WIAA State qualifier, Packard as well as Weddle each advanced.
Weddle drew a tough first round match against Isy Thaper of Eau Claire Memorial, who would go on to become the sectional champion at No. 3 singles. Thaper defeated Weddle 6-0, 6-1. But Weddle would come back strong in the third-place match and defeated Gina Fillkins of River Falls in straight sets. Packard fell in her quarterfinal match to Greta Baake of New Richmond.
Despite a tough final high school tennis match, Packard has had a successful high school tennis career which was highlighted by a trip to the WIAA State Tournament in 2015. Weddle, Roberts, and Seefeldt along with several JV netters will join together next season on their journey in hopes of an eighth straight conference title.
Disclaimer: All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed and should be independently verified. By Request LLC shall not be responsible for any typographical errors, misinformation, misprints and shall be held totally harmless.