Making it to sectionals is a challenge. Winning at sectionals is even tougher.
For two flights of the Waunakee girls’ tennis team, the season continued on Thursday at Nielsen Tennis Stadium. Both Trista Ripp and Sara Sowinski at No. 1 doubles and Danielle Rogers and Jadyn Statz at No. 3 doubles made it to the finals of their WIAA Sectional.
Ripp and Sowinski were up first. In their opening match Thursday morning, Waunakee’s duo faced Jordi Pasch and Lauren Jarrett of La Crosse Logan.
Waunakee’s tandem got off to a hot start, claiming the first four games of the match. Up 4-0, the Warriors were able to trade sets until they had the first set in hand 6-2.
The second set started similarly; Ripp and Sowinski took the first three games to go up 3-0. La Crosse Logan finally showed some fight by taking three of the next four games, closing Waunakee’s lead to just 4-3.
Waunakee bounced back, however, winning two straight games to advance onto the semifinal 6-2, 6-3. With the win, Ripp and Sowinski earned a guaranteed spot at the WIAA State Tournament.
“Trista and Sara have been rock solid this season,” said Waunakee’s Head Coach Chris Nuenthel. “You can tell this season they are more confident than last season.”
Rogers and Statz were up next in their semifinal match against Baraboo’s Maggie Cleary and Claire Bildstein at No. 3 doubles.
Neither side was able to gain an early advantage. Though Waunakee won the first game, they never held more than a one-game lead in set number one through seven games. Up 4-3, Rogers and Statz finally pulled away, winning two of three to win 6-4.
Up one set to none, the second set rushed by quickly. Waunakee rolled to a 6-0 win to advance to the final 6-4, 6-0.
“We played better-moving as a doubles team, making teams earn points against us instead of giving ‘free’ points away,” added Nuenthel.
In their semifinal match, Ripp and Sowinski squared off against Faith and Chloe Leithold of Onalaska.
Ripp and Sowinski got into trouble early; in the first set, they found themselves down 4-3. Once more, they were able to bounce back, winning three of the next four games to take set number one 6-4.
In set number two, Waunakee’s pair again found themselves trailing 4-3. This time, Onalaska’s duo put the Warriors away by taking the next two games, forcing a third set.
A back-and-forth set followed in the third. After Onalaska went up 1-0, the teams traded two-game runs. Waunakee led 2-1 after their first run and 4-3 after the second.
As the set progressed, Waunakee twice had chances – up 5-4 and 6-5 – to punch their ticket to the final. Neither chance was successful, though, and the teams headed to a tiebreaker after being deadlocked 6-6.
Early in the tiebreaker, Waunakee fell behind 4-2. A quick 3-0 run allowed them to take a brief lead, but two straight points by Onalaska but the Warriors on the brink of a loss. Down 6-5, Ripp tied the tiebreak up with a spike; a double-fault by Onalaska on the next serve gave the Warriors one more chance to seal the win. This time, Waunakee finally finished the job, winning on a final spike by Sowinski.
In the finals, Waunakee’s luck ran out. Ripp and Sowinski dropped their match 6-2, 6-1 against Madison West’s Camille Vadas and Sophia Knigge, while Rogers and Statz fell 6-4, 6-2 against Anja Newcomer and Nika Agapov of Middleton.
“The most important thing we did at sectionals was enjoy the moment of being there – since no one got that far last year – and just have fun playing tennis,” added Nuenthel.
For Ripp and Sowinski, the season continues for another week. A brutal schedule during their season – including four matches against two of the top four seeds at state, two more state qualifiers and two teams that feature one state qualifier – prepped them for a tough postseason.
“That’s an impressive resume and why I was not surprised at all they got to the sectional finals this year after losing at subsectionals last year,” said Nuenthel. “As long as Trista and Sara stay confident in their game, I think they will be a scary team to play the first few rounds at state.”
Ripp and Sowinski’s opening match at Nielsen Tennis Stadium comes Thursday morning, when they’ll play Abby Osterman and Jeanmarie Lorentz of Kimberly. Start time is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Should Waunakee’s pair win, they’ll play again against Grace and Hannah Cady of Arrowhead Saturday morning at 9 a.m.