There is no shortage of experience among the area qualifiers for the WIAA Individual State Tennis Tournament that begins Thursday at Nielsen Tennis Center in Madison.
But there will also be some players getting their first taste being on the court for the state meet.
Singles players Morgan Ross of Sheboygan, Matt Primozic of Plymouth and Casey Johnson of Kohler, along with doubles pairings Gabe and Gavin Binversie of Plymouth, Noah Fink and Archie Brohn of Kohler and Zach Fritz and Andrew Reinemann of Howards Grove will all be chasing state medals at the three-day tournament.
Johnson is one of the few flights that hasn’t experienced playing on the Nielsen courts, but head coach John Reinertsen doesn’t believe that will have an effect on the freshman.
Johnson won his Division 2 sectional title at No. 1 singles and drew the No. 3 seed in the bracket, entering the state meet.
“Casey plays in a lot of USTA Tournaments at the regional and national levels and those are high-pressure situations and playing good players,” Reinertsen said. “It’s a little different because, other than at nationals, there will be more people watching but I think he will handle it.”
Johnson, whose older brother Colin was a state medal winner in doubles at Kohler, has lost just one match this season. He is one of just eight players with at least 19 wins on the season and drew a first-round bye because of his seeding.
He will face either Marcus Bourget of Regis or Brookfield Academy’s Liam Matthews in his first match on Friday at 11:30 a.m.
“He has a very solid all-around game and he has high goals,” Reinerstsen said. “He’s a one-sport athlete, so tennis is his game. Tennis is in his blood.”
Joining Johnson in the Division 2 singles field will be Primozic, who is making his third trip to the state tournament and second straight in singles.
Primozic finished second in his sectional bracket, falling to fourth-seeded Cecil Lingard of Edgewood in the title match.
The junior won his first-round match at state last year in straight sets, but fell to eventual state runner-up Kal Sane in the second round. This season Primozic (18-4), who is seeded sixth, opens against David Shon of Monroe.
The area’s remaining singles qualifier is Ross, who had to sweat out earning a special qualifier bid to cap his stellar career with his fourth trip to the state tournament.
Ross (15-11), who won a state medal in doubles as a freshman, will face fellow special qualifier James Paradisin of Waunakee in a Division 1 first-round match on Thursday.
All three doubles teams compete in Division 2, with the duos from Plymouth and Kohler earning top eight seeds.
The Binversies earned the No. 6 seed for the Panthers and are making their second straight trip to Madison as a pairing. A year ago, the duo won their first match and then loss in three sets to teammates Ben Bachmann and Steven Blend.
They come in with an 18-7 record and will open against Jacky Lin and Michael Gjerseth of Black River Falls (14-6).
Fink and Brohn are seeded eighth and the first year pairing is playing some of its best tennis entering the state tournament. The duo’s lone loss at sectionals came to a Notre Dame team that is the top seed in the state bracket.
“They complement each other well,” Reinertsen said. “Noah is so tall and athletic, he provides a great presence at the net, while Archie is really strong on his ground strokes and to-spin lob.
“They have shown progression throughout the season and have learned how to play better together.”
Fink and Brohn (16-4) open against Even Greuel and Aaron Reilly of Chilton (9-3) Thursday, while wins in their first two matches would likely earn them a rematch with top-seeded Zach Janssen and Charlie Parrish of Notre Dame.
Howards Grove’s Fritz and Reinemann could face a seeded opponent in the second round, but first must beat Lakeland’s Nick Garcia and Levi Herrick in the first round.
The trip to state caps a four-year journey for the pairing and even the final step wasn’t one that came easily.
“All season long we thought they could be a special qualifier contender but (after sectionals) it had us a little worried,” Howards Grove coach Elizabeth Hill said. “They were pretty bummed after losing at sectionals, but when they found out they had made it (to state), the smiles were back on their faces.”
Both Fritz and Reinemann hadn’t played tennis before joining the program as freshmen and each played singles last season so they had to adjust to being a doubles team this year.
The pairing worked, though, and the duo became the first state qualifier in the six years under Hill.
“They are so excited,” Hill said. “Every year they have worked so hard to improve.”
Steve Clark: (920) 426-6659 or email@example.com