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2019 RHS Girls' Tennis Review
By Hodagsports.com Staff - Posted on 11/12/2019
Photo By Submitted Photo
The Rhinelander High School girls' tennis team under Coach Bob Heideman had another successful season for 2019. The Hodags showcased plenty of highlights throughout the year and would earn their ninth Great Northern Conference title in the past 10 years. RHS finished the season 18-7 and went undefeated in GNC action at 7-0 and went 148-55 on matches overall.

The Hodags biggest challenge was filling the voids after losing five of their 10 varsity starters from last season. But after adjusting the players around to new positions along with a strong senior leadership, Rhinelander quickly filled those roles which proved to be a large part of their success. All six seniors ended up in the doubles lineup for RHS.

Rhinelander would have six seniors in their varsity lineup including Alex, Oestreich, Jackie Wells, Kenedy Van Zile, Lisa White, Izzy Haverkamp, and Jaiden Thiel. One of the biggest adjustments was Oestreich moving from No. 1 singles to No. 1 doubles to pair with Wells. Van Zile moved to No. 2 singles and sophomore Annika Johnson took over at the top singles flight. Sophomore Kaylee Pontell moved up to No. 3 singles and junior Kat Metropulos was No. 4 singles. White and junior Kathryn Borski paired at No. 2 doubles position.

Last season the GNC title went right down to the wire and was a battle between RHS and Antigo that was decided by a tiebreaker in the final match of the tournament. This season even with both teams in similar positions, Rhinelander built a comfortable 10-point advantage going into the GNC meet and would pull away after advancing six of their seven flights to the finals. RHS finished with a 33-25 win over Antigo on the day and would earn an 18-point victory in the overall standings to win the title.

Van Zile earned her third straight GNC title, this time at No. 2 singles after charting all three-set wins. Pontell at No. 3 singles and Metropulos at No. 4 singles also earned conference titles for RHS. Johnson finished third overall in the top singles flight. And after going 21-0 in GNC duals, the RHS doubles teams all reached the finals but were unable to secure titles and all finished second. RHS was also the only school to have all seven flights earn top-three finishes in the GNC meet.

Rhinelander also had a tough non-conference invite lineup were they found success early in the season but struggled in their final two. First RHS went 4-1 overall at the Wausau West Invite to kick off their season and would follow that up with a home triangular win over Ironwood and Merrill. But at the end of August and beginning of September the Hodags combined to go 3-6 in both invitationals.

In the postseason, Rhinelander was unable to find as much success as they did in the GNC. Their subsectional was all the Wisconsin Valley Conference teams along with Antigo in Division 1. Despite finishing 7-2 over those teams during the regular season, RHS finished 5th/9 overall and were only able to advance Wells and Oestreich to sectionals.

"It was not the day we had hoped for," said Coach Bob Heideman. "We lost too many of the close matches and sets, that made the difference. We had four three-setters and a tie break set and we lost them all. We gave it a solid effort but came up a little short, regrettably at this point of the season, that sends you home."

At the Eau Claire Memorial sectionals, Oestreich and Wells fell in straight set to to top seed Kim Harvey and Katie Rentzepis of Eau Claire Memorial. Despite dropping 6-1, 6-0 the match was closer than it appeared it on paper with several deuce games.

Rhinelander will lose six seniors to graduation; Wells, Oestreich, Van Zile, White, Haverkampf, and Thiel. The Hodags will return three of their singles players and one doubles player for 2020 and will likely have to adjust their lineups again for the new season.

"There was plenty of sting in that yesterday, but I hope they can focus on what they accomplished this year," Heideman said after subsectionals. "They will be sorely missed and that hole will be very very very hard to fill."
Hodag Tennis ends season at Sectionals
By Hodagsports.com Staff - Posted on 10/10/2019
Photo By File Photo
The Rhinelander High School girls' tennis team lost several close matches and sets on Monday and only advanced their No. 1 doubles flight to sectionals. The Hodags finished fifth overall in the nine-team Stevens Point subsectional with seniors Jackie Wells and Alex Oestreich the only two netters to advance. The RHS seniors went on to battled at the Eau Claire Memorial sectionals and would fall in straight sets.

"It was not the day we had hoped for," said Coach Bob Heideman. "We lost too many of the close matches and sets, that made the difference. We had four three-setters and a tie break set and we lost them all. We gave it a solid effort but came up a little short, regrettably at this point of the season, that sends you home."

After the WIAA Division 1 sections, Rhinelander ended the careers of six seniors; Oestreich, Wells, Kenedy Van Zile, Izzy Haverkampf, Jaiden Thiel, and Lisa White. Wells and Oestreich extended their season and moved to Wednesday's sectionals at Eau Claire Memorial.

Rhinelander's No. 1 double of Wells/Oestreich only needed one win at subsectionals to advance and they earned a straight set win over Marshfield to move on. Oestreich/Wells started strong with a 6-0 first set win over Emily Weis and Lauren Weigel. RHS was ahead 5-1 in the second set and Weis/Weigel rallied off three straight game wins. The Hodags kept their composure and would win 6-4 to complete the straight set win.

"Even that match had its drama, after winning the first set easily they had scored an early lead 5-1 but at that conjecture Marshfield launched a comeback running three games," noted Heideman. "What created the tension was recently, Jackie and Alex have had trouble holding on to similar leads. But at 5-4 they closed out the game and the match. They earned the right to play the No. 1 seed from the Menominee subsectional, Eau Claire Memorial."

In a tough sectional on Wednesday morning, Oestreich/Wells had to face top seeded double team of Kim Harvey and Katie Rentzepis of Eau Claire Memorial (22-9). Harvey/Rentzepis cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 win over the Hodag seniors. Despite what was on paper, the match was closer than it appeared with several deuce games.

Rhinelander came up short by one match of qualifying for sectionals in five more flights on Monday. One of the biggest upsets for the Hodags came at No. 3 singles where Kaylee Pontell was defeated by Margo Kelly of Antigo. Pontell finished second at sectionals last season at No. 4 singles. Kelly defeated Pontell 7-6 (4), 6-2. Pontell finished her season 26-4 after beating Kelly twice earlier this season.

"Kaylee had to overcome early Antigo leads in those matches," Hedieman said. "It seems the momentum of winning the first set is critical in this match up and after losing a close tiebreak. Kaylee found herself quickly down 1-5 and couldn't dig herself out. This is the second year she has led the team in wins."

At the top singles flight, Rhinelander's Annika Johnson was the five seed and faced Avery Nicholsen of Antigo. Johnon had a commanding lead to start and cruised to a 6-2 first set win, but from there could not keep up that momentum. Nicholson rallied back to win the next two sets 6-3, 6-0 to win the match.

Van Zile finished 22-5 this season and would fall to second-seed Claire Peterson of Wausau East in the second match of the day. In the first match Van Zile made short work of Bellah Vinter of Wisconsin Rapids. Peterson cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 win in the second match.

"Kenedy was the three seed and served well in her first match," stated Heideman. "The easy points off serve discouraged her opponent. You could tell by her body language. In the second match, East had similar games but more often (Peterson) was on the winning end of points."

At No. 4 singles, Kat Metropulos couldn't pull out a three-setter in her only match of the day and fell to Kelly Alenka of Wisconsin Rapids. Metropulos had the early momentum and would win the first set 6-3 but faded in the final two sets and fell 6-2, 6-2.

"Kat ended her season on a three-setter," Heideman said. "Kat worked her into the four spot with some close wins and it seemed that three-setters were the trademark of her season. She's a persistent hard worker on the court."

Rhinelander's No. 2 double team of Lisa White and Kathryn Borski would also end their season on a three-set loss. The Hodag duo started the day strong and earned a 6-4, 6-4 win over Madeleine Bizjak and Mia Hoehn of Wausau West. But than had another tough match to follow against Wausau East. White/Borski started with a 6-2 first set win, but lost some ground in the second set and fell 6-5 to Lillie Grace Faulkner and Elizabeth Boulanger. In the third set Borski/White battle strong but would drop 7-5 to lose the match.

"Lisa and Kathryn (21-9) had a tough first match and then had a long tougher second match," said Heideman.  "I give them credit for coming back in the second set. They were within a couple of points of pulling the comeback off."

And in the third doubles flight, Haverkampf and Thiel split their matches on the day. In their first match Thiel/Haverkampf started with a three-set win over Wisconsin Rapids. The Hodag seniors battled to a 7-5 win over Sophia Wardour and Kiara Coombs before dropping the second set 6-1. Haverkampf/Thiel finished strong to close the three-set match 6-1. In their second match, Thiel/Haverkampf faced top-seed Marshfield and fell in straight sets.

"Izzy and Jaiden (23-7) began the day with one of their usual roller coaster three set wins," noted Heideman. "They ran into the No. 1 seed from Marshfield. They responded with their best effort of the season. They were moving well with energy but Marshfield was just too athletic and ran down a lot of shots."

Despite only advancing only one flight to the WIAA sectionals, the Rhinelander girls tennis team had another successful season. The Hodags were able to clench their ninth GNC title in the past 10 season to edge Antigo and sent six flights to the championships matches. The Hodags lose six senior to graduation for next season and will return four varsity starters.

"Their was plenty of sting in that yesterday but I hope they can focus on what they accomplished this year," Heideman said. "They will be sorely missed and that hole will be very very very hard to fill."

Scrimmage vs Wausau WestW 6-1
Wausau West Invite4-1
@Columbus Catholic W 7-0
Home Invite vs Ironwood, Merrill1st/3
Quad@Wisconsin RapidsCancelled
MedfordW 7-0
@Phillips W 7-0
Wausau West Invite2-3
Green Bay Southwest Invite1-3
Stevens PointW 5-2
AntigoW 5-2
@Pacelli W 7-0
LakelandW 7-0
Newman Catholic W 6-1
GNC Meet (RHS Tennis Courts)1st/8
Sub-sectionals@ Stevens Point5th/9
Sectionals@Eau Claire Memorial 8th/17
Total Conference Points
Newman Catholic5-2
Columbus Catholic1-6
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