It was a difficult way to end a decorated season.
West De Pere junior Nick Dykema appeared to have a legitimate chance to win the WIAA Division 1 state tennis title last month while playing Damon Niquet of Milwaukee Marquette in a quarterfinal.
Dykema was cruising in his match against the defending state champion, winning the first set 6-1 and going up 5-1 in the second.
But Dykema started cramping during that second set. As much as he attempted to fight through it, nothing worked. He dropped the set 7-5, then had to retire from the match.
Niquet ended up winning a second straight championship. Dykema could have been the first area boys tennis player in Division 1 to win a state title since the tournament went to two divisions in 1995.
He also could have joined Shawano’s Bill Reed (1939, 1940, 1941), Green Bay West’s Don Rondou (1950) and Green Bay Notre Dame’s Michael Koval (2007) as the only area players to win a championship.
“Overall, I was pretty happy with how the state tournament went,” said Dykema, who is the Press-Gazette’s boys tennis player of the year for the second straight season. “I realize that I could really compete with the top players in the state, and the top player in the state.
“I just felt good that, even though I was just four points away, I was that close to battling it out for the state semifinal.”
Dykema still wonders if he would have a title if healthy. He would have faced Green Bay Southwest standout Nick Allen in a semifinal, a player he had beaten twice during the season.
“I still would have had two tough matches in Nick Allen and Felix (Corwin),” he said. “Both of whom are friends of mine.”
Championship or not, Dykema continued to establish himself as the area’s best this season. He beat Allen in a three-set thriller at the Metro meet and followed with a straight-set win at sectionals. He went 28-4 overall.
His serve was as dominant as ever, and he showed more aggressiveness in coming to the net when the opportunity presented itself.
“When he’s serving well, in his service games anyway, he is virtually untouchable,” West De Pere coach John Dykema said of his son. “It’s a rocket serve. I don’t know how else to describe it. When he’s on, he has great control of it.”
Dykema is busy playing in summer tournaments, and the goal for next season is to work on his fitness and overall strength while being even more aggressive during matches.
“I feel great about how I transitioned from last year to this year,” Dykema said. “During the season, I lost three matches, and they were all in three sets. I didn’t lose anything badly.”