For the ninth time in the past 10 seasons, the Rhinelander High School girls' tennis team won the Great Northern Conference title. This season the Hodags finished top three in all seven flights including three first place finishes in singles action. RHS finished with 125 total conference points to edge Antigo by 18 points on Saturday at the RHS Tennis Courts.
Rhinelander would hold a 10-point lead over the Robins going into the GNC tournament and would add another eight points and would defeat Antigo 33-25 on the day. RHS even was able to clench the title before the final round of play with the help of Antigo being upset in the
first round at No. 1 doubles. The Hodags would end up making it to the championship match in six flights on the day.
Becky Larrain of Wausau Newman would win singles' player of the year honors after a straight set win over Avery Nicholson (Antigo) at No. 1 singles. And Marissa Stolt and Ella Schroeder of Pacelli won doubles play of the year after beating Rhinelander seniors Alex Oestreich and Jackie Wells in a three-setter in the finals. Coach Bob Heidman also won GNC coach of the year.
At No. 2 singles, senior Kenedy Van Zile would cruise to her third straight GNC title after three straight sets wins on the day. Van Zile beat Antigo’s Ellie Kelly 7-5, 6-3 in the championship match. Sophomore Kaylee Pontell also joined Van Zile as conference champion at No. 3 singles, where she made short work of Margo Kelly of Antigo and won 6-4, 6-1 in the title match.
While Rhinelander got a third conference title at No. 4 singles from junior Kat Metropulos. In the finals Metropulos faced Antigo's Brechlyn Flannery and would make a statement with a 6-4, 7-6 (6) win this time around. On September 13th, Flannery rallied back from being down to steal a three-setter from Metropulos, but would be stopped with the title on the line.
Sophomore Annika Johnson at the top singles flight for Rhinelander finished third overall. Johnson would fall 4-6, 2-6 to Nicholson of Antigo before rallying back to sweep Kiah Gauthier (Lakeland) 6-0, 6-0 for the third-place match.
Despite going 21-0 in doubles matches in conference duals this season, and earning the top flight in all three flights, RHS was unable to match their seeds and fell and all the championship matches.
The Hodags were looking to wrap up play of the year honors, but were stopped short at No. 1 doubles. Wells and Oestreich dropped the first set 6-2 in the finals to M. Stolt and Schroeder of Pacelli. But Oestreich/Wells battled back to force a third by winning 7-3. And in the final set the senior Hodags would take a 4-2 before Pacelli rallied back to win the final three games and win the match and finish with player of the year honors at the top doubles flight.
Rhinelander's second and third doubles flights also made it the championship match, but would come up short to finish runner-up. Lisa White and Kathryn Borski at No. 2 doubles would fall 6-1, 6-4 to Brooke Sommer and Kailee Mann of Medford. The Raider duo also knocked out Antigo in the semifinal match, and they were able to win the GNC title.
And at No. 3 doubles seniors Izzy Haverkampf and Jaiden Thiel were up 6-4 in the first set of the finals against Elli Stank and Ellie Preboski of Antigo. But couldn't keep the momentum going, as Preboski/Stank won the second set 7-6 (1) to force the tie break and would close the set 6-0 for the title.
The RHS will now shift their focus on the WIAA Division 1 subsectional that will be held on Monday, October 7th in Stevens Point. The Hodags and Robins will join all the Wisconsin Valley Conference teams in the subsectionals that includes, Wausau East, Wausau West, Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, Marshield, Merrill, and D.C. Everest. Rhinelander faced all their subsectional opponents this season and went 7-1 against them in duals with their only loss coming in the beginning of the season against Wausau West (3-4).