Newman Catholic’s Grace Larrain is seeded third among Divison 2 qualifers as the WIAA state individual tournament begins play today at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium.
Larrain, who was the state runner-up a year ago, carries a 28-3 mark into the weekend, and is among five Wausau area players who reached Madison for the second straight year. The group includes her teammate Madison Tubbs, who qualified in doubles play with Anna Gosz. Tubbs qualified for the tournament with Carly Maves last season.
D.C. Everest’s Gabi Kitchell (27-1) — whose only loss this fall was to Larrain –is seeded eighth in Division 1 singles play after qualifying for the tournament last year as a freshman, and Wausau East’s top doubles team of Caroline Krolicki and Mallory Wanserski are also back after qualifying last season as sophomores.
Newman Catholic’s Abby Connolly and Toni Rufledt also qualified for the tournament for the first time as a doubles team.
Kitchell faces a strong Divison 1 field that has five undefeated players in the mix. Everest coach Dustin Radloff said the sophomore is set for the challenge however.
“She’s a lot more confident (this year),” Radloff said. “As a freshman coming in (last year) she was a really good player, but she’s gotten a lot more mentally tough.”
Wanserski and Krolick return after reaching the third round of the tournament last year.
“I think last year’s experience really helped,” East coach Trevor Knight said.
“They went into state with a nothing-to-lose attitude and really played well. That experience just gave them a lot of confidence. They are different personalities and they both have their different strengths (out on the court), but they balance each other out.”
Wanserski and Krolicki carry a 25-1 record into the week, and are seeded eighth with a first-round bye. The tandem’s only loss came at the season’s midpoint to Franklin’s Kat Donovan and Ensley Gossett.
“I haven’t put any expectations on them, I’m sure they have placed it on themselves already,” Knight said. “The big thing is just to go out there and play our best tennis. That’s really what our focus needs to be and not try and do anything special. Obviously what they have been doing has worked and they have beat a lot of good teams already and some that are seeded (in the state tournament). We don’t really need to try and reinvent the wheel at this point, just go out and play our tennis.”