The Rhinelander High School girls' tennis team went into Saturday's Great Northern Conference tournament knowing it would be battle for the 2018 title but they did not expect the results to be determined by the final point of the final match at No. 2 singles. Despite Antigo beating RHS 32-30 in the tournament, RHS held on to a 114-112 overall point lead to win their eighth GNC title in the past nine seasons at the Lakeland Union High School tennis courts.
The Hodags would get an astounding victory from senior Emma Roberts in the second singles flight, which would give them the final edge of Antigo for the title. Roberts clawed her way back after falling down a set and also down 1-5 in the 10-point match tiebreaker against Ellie Kelly of the Robins. Roberts would earn a 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 win, which ended up being the match that determined the GNC championship.
Rhinelander entered the tournament four points ahead of Antigo despite falling to them 4-3 earlier in September. The Robins were set back after being upset by Wausau Newman 4-3 on Tuesday. But the path the regaining the conference title was defiantly not an easy task.
The Hodags struggled through the semifinal rounds and as a team went 3-4 which include two upset losses. But RHS still had a chance down the stretch and they went 7-0 in the final round while Antigo went 2-5. Rhinelander recorded some crucial head-to-head match wins against the Robins in the final round to give them just enough to squeak by with a two-point victory in the overall standings.
Roberts along with junior teammate Kenedy Van Zile and freshman Kaylee Pontel each won matches over Antigo in the final round to earn individual conference titles at No. 2, 3, and 4 singles.
Pontel finished undefeated in the GNC at No. 4 singles and cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 over Lorraine Hammes of Lakeand in the semifinal match before a convincing 6-0, 6-01 win against Margo Kelly of Antigo in the finals.
Just like last season, Van Zile now at No. 3 singles was able to finish the GNC strong and came back to earn an individual title after falling to sophomore Avery Nicholson of Antigo during the regular season. Van Zile suffered a loss to Nicholson in the beginning of September as Antigo edged RHS 4-3 in the dual meet. But Van Zile would get the last laugh and had no problems downing Nicholson 6-0, 6-1 for her first conference loss of the year.
At No. 2 singles, Roberts won a three-set win (6-1, 5-7, 10-7) against Grace Geiger of Medford in the semifinals. And quickly fell behind 1-4 in the first set of the finals against Kelly and could not make up the ground she lost and dropped the first set 3-6. But determined, Roberts came back to win the second set 6-4 and force the tiebreaker. In the third and deciding set Roberts rallied off five straight points to win the match (10-8).
Overall the Hodags were evenly matched with Antigo throughout the tournament and the 3-3 results in head-to-head matches proved it. No. 1 singles player Alex Oestriech, who was ranked third fell to second-seed Maya Gaedtke of the Robins in the semifinals. In the third-place match, Oestriech battled back to defeat Stephanie Vaughan of Pacelli 6-0, 6-4.
And top doubles team of senior Haley Seefeldt and freshman Annika Johnson dropped to topped seeded team of Taylor Arrowood and Abby Robrecht. Johnson and Seefeldt bounced back in the third-place match to defeat Medford's Mariah Leader and Lauryn Strick 6-1, 6-3.
Rhinelander's third loss against Antigo on the day was at No. 3 doubles, where Jackie Wells and Savannah Chartier suffered their first loss in GNC action to fifth-seed Greta Parsons and Julia Westen in straight sets. In the third-place match, Chartier and Wells came back and won 6-4, 6-2 over Tessa Rogers and Leah Shibilski of Pacelli.
Top-seed No. 2 doubles team of Madi Losch and Alexis Pyrchalla would fall in three sets to Pacelli’s Mari Olson and Amanda Cisewski. Pyrchalla and Losch came back in the second set after falling 3-6 in the opening set. In the third-set Losch and Pyrchalla would fall 7-5. Pyrchalla/Losch did pull out a three-set win; 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4 over Newman's Ali Bennett and Julia Welter to finish third.
The Hodags were able to hold onto to earn their eighth GNC title in the last nine seasons and will now begin to prepare for playoffs. RHS will host Ironwood in a final non-conference dual on Friday afternoon at the RHS tennis courts. Rhinelander will then host the WIAA Division 1 subsectionals on Monday October, 1st.