For all of its success, the Neenah girls’ tennis team hasn’t won a state team championship since the WIAA went to its current format in 1994.
The Rockets believe this could be the year.
“This has been the best team of all four years of my high school career and I think if we play our best, we definitely have a shot at the championship,” senior Jenny Price said. “We definitely knew that we were going to be really strong.
“It sounds a little egotistic, but we knew we were most likely going to qualify for state, so it was one of our goals that we could win state. We knew if we set our lineup right, we could be a really strong team and this entire season we have really been hoping to work up to it.”
The Rockets, who are making their third consecutive trip to the state team tournament and 12th overall appearance, play Friday at 5:30 p.m. against Badger in a Division 1 quarterfinal match at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison.
Defending state champion Middleton, Arrowhead and Neenah are considered the favorites in the eight-team field. If the Rockets can beat Badger, they will likely face Middleton in the semifinals and potentially Arrowhead in the championship.
Middleton is 17-4 this season, including two losses to Arrowhead, while Arrowhead and Neenah are both unbeaten with 15-0 dual records and several invitational titles.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Price, who plays No. 1 singles for the Rockets.
Kelly Van Handel, a former Neenah tennis standout who is in her third season as coach for the Rockets, said the goal all season was to make a return trip to state.
“It definitely was this year,” she said. “I knew last year’s team was strong and this year’s team was even stronger. It’s a goal we had. After taking first at every invite we went to, even with bigger schools, it kind of boosted some confidence a little bit. That’s always a fine line between being confident and overconfident.”
After Price, the rest of the Rockets’ singles lineup will be freshman Kiki Risgaard at No. 2, sophomore Jordyn Lawatsch at No. 3 and sophomore Ellie Callahan at No. 4.
At doubles, the Rockets will send out junior Kendra Kappes and sophomore Christina Price at No. 1, senior Natalie Ake and junior Megan Nasr at No. 2, and junior Andrea Galloway and freshman Hannah Dorsey at No. 3.
It is a lineup that has been intact for most of the season and Van Handel sees no reason to change now.
“We’ll just play our game and do what we can do and see what happens,” she said. “Nothing is easy. We’re going to have to be on our A game, for sure.”
— Mike Sherry: 920-993-1000, ext. 289, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @MikeSherry14
State Team Tennis
Friday’s quarterfinals, 5:30 p.m.
Middleton vs. Brookfield East
Neenah vs. Badger
Eau Claire Memorial vs. Arrowhead
Notre Dame vs. Nicolet
Semifinals, 9 a.m.
Final, 2 p.m.
Saturday’s semifinals, 9 a.m.
Regis vs. Edgewood
Baldwin-Woodville vs. University School of Milwaukee
Semifinal winners, 2 p.m.