It has been a strange trip to Madison for Fond du Lac’s No. 1 doubles team of Erin Cole and Emily Nett, but for the two friends, the season couldn’t end in a better place.
Cole and Nett will take a 13-9 record into their first-round match against a team from Madison East in the first round of the WIAA Division 1 doubles state tournament this afternoon.
“We’re really excited,” said Cole. “This has been the most excited I’ve been to go to State. I don’t know if it’s because it’s my senior year or because we didn’t know if we’d get there, but I’m really excited.”
Cole already knows the feeling of playing at UW-Madison’s Nielsen Tennis Stadium. For the previous three years she reached the state tournament with her partner Katie Hammonds, who was a year older. Their best result was a quarterfinal appearance in 2010. With Hammonds graduated, it seemed like a good time for Cole to move to singles, which she played at the start of the season, only to move back to doubles.
“Her heart was in doubles and it’s where she played the best,” Fondy coach Heather Schuetz said. “She probably could have gone to State in singles, but it’s always fun to see them play what they enjoy.”
Nett, meanwhile, was dealing with a different, more serious issue — a surgically repaired leg.
As a sophomore on the softball team she slid into home plate where she crashed into the catcher and broke her leg. A plate and six screws were inserted into her knee, and she had to sit out her junior tennis season.
“I have an awesome scar,” she joked. But she added that it was a concern as she returned to the court.
“I didn’t know how my knee would hold up,” she said. “But it felt really good. It’s been a little painful, but not too bad.”
The two may have been friends for awhile off the court, but on the court the two had to figure out how to work together.
Nett, the more level-headed of the two players, said she was worried about letting down the three-time state participant, and Cole, who can be more intense on the court, said that it was obvious in the early going that they had limited experience playing together.
“Probably knowing where she was on the court,” Cole said about the biggest adjustment. “With Katie I knew where she would be on certain shots. I had to get used to where Emily would be.”
Schuetz and the two seniors agreed that after the rocky start to the partnership, they have been playing their best recently. They went 3-1 in their postseason matches and took third place at the Neenah Sectional.
“Last weekend (at sectionals) we were amazing,” Nett said. “It was just so much fun.”
And now they hope to keep that momentum going.
“I think we’re really looking forward to playing our tennis,” Cole said. “We’d love to win as much as we can, but we’re looking to play the best we can.”