Katie Wichman and Olivia Phillips remember last season’s ending for two different reasons.
Wichman and partner Madison Overmann finished in third place in the Class 1A state doubles tournament, while Phillips narrowly missed out on making it to state in singles, after finishing in third at last year’s regional tournament.
But on Wednesday, the two, along with Wichman’s doubles partner, Sadie Hansen, swept the Class 1A singles and doubles regional titles to advance to the state singles and doubles tournament, which will be held on May 29 and 30 at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
W-SR head coach Scott Giraud was nothing shy of impressed with how the Go-Hawks played at the regional tournament.
“It was gutsy, consistent and aggressive,” Giraud said. “I thought they played really smart tennis today. They didn’t try to over-do anything. They didn’t try to do something we hadn’t worked on in practice. They kept within their game.”
Another Go-Hawk duo team of Brooke Willis and Rachel Roose earned a third-place finish, while Molly Ramker was Waverly-Shell Rock’s other singles competitor and didn’t place.
In the singles bracket, Phillips claimed the tournament’s top seed and received a bye during the opening round. In her first match of the day, Phillips defeated Decorah’s Soleih Smith, 6-1, 6-2. During the semifinal round, Phillips earned a victory over Hampton-Dumont’s Triston Rew, 6-1, 6-0. In the finals, Phillips prevailed over another Decorah Viking in the tournament’s second-seed, Mara Frieden, 6-0, 6-2.
Phillips thought her regional performance was solid, especially with having to wait for long periods of time in between matches.
“I thought I came out pretty strong,” Phillips said. “My numbers proved it. Overall, I mentally stayed in it and pushed through. I really just did what I know how to do. My last match was the hardest. I’d played her before, and I knew it was going to be a battle. I was glad I beat her.”
For Ramker in the singles bracket, her opening draw was what most described as a “heartbreaker.”
Ramker went up against Independence’s Marina Meyer and fell in three sets, 7-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3. With the defeat, Ramker was bounced from the tournament.
Wichman and Hansen entered the doubles bracket as the No. 2 seed. During their opening match, the duo won over Clear Lake’s Kaylee Nosbisch and Stephanie Penning, 6-0, 6-0. In the second round, the Go-Hawks won over Decorah’s Alli Groux and Josie Kleckner, 6-1, 6-0. For their semifinals match, Wichman and Hansen posted a win over Independence’s Heidi Lau and Holly Cooksley. In the finals, Wichman and Hansen faced another set of Independence Mustangs in the tourney’s top-seeded duo, Abby Davis and Megan Brock and won, 6-1, 6-3.
After the seeding meeting Wednesday morning, Wichman was surprised to find the Go-Hawk duo listed as the No. 2 seed.
That was enough to motivate Hansen and Wichman throughout the tournament to lead them to their regional doubles championship.
“Going into today, we thought we were going to get the No. 1 seed,” Wichman said. “Independence ended up getting it, but we didn’t let that stop us. We went into deuce a lot today, but we were able to finish points. It feels really good to go back to state this year.”
Wichman and Hansen were paired as doubles partners just before the Waverly-Shell Rock quad meet on Thursday, May 2.
Hansen said playing with Wichman was a great opportunity in her first and what will be her last doubles performance for the Go-Hawks.
“I guess this is the first time I’ve been in competitive doubles,” Hansen said. “Katie was really good at lifting me up and being a really good player. She was getting her shots in and boosting my confidence. That helped me hit harder. We were in deuce a lot, but in practice, we worked on finishing points. I think that’s what really got us through.”
Also competing in doubles for the Go-Hawks was Roose and Willis. In their opening round, the duo defeated Decorah’s Mya Herrman and Payton Schutte, 6-2, 6-2. During the quarterfinals, Willis and Roose earned the victory over Aplington-Parkersburg’s Emalee Price and Katie Cuvelier, 6-1, 6-1. Going up against Independence’s Davis and Brock in the semifinals, the Go-Hawk duo was defeated, 6-2, 6-2. In the third-place match, Willis and Roose earned a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Independence’s Lau and Cooksley to win bronze.
Reflecting on the tournament as a whole, Giraud was impressed with how all four positions played during the regional tournament.
“The girls pushed through,” Giraud said. “It was a day that I thought they could have. They showed up in a big way. Getting two regional champs, a third place out of our four positions, it was a good day.”
It was back on Tuesday, April 2 when the Go-Hawks dropped their season-opening meet to Waterloo Columbus, 8-1.
Since then, the Go-Hawks have won seven-straight regular season meets with an overall score of 61-2, claimed the Waverly-Shell Rock and Northeast Iowa Conference tournament titles, won the first two rounds of team regionals over Clear Lake and Charles City with 5-0 margins and crowned regional singles and doubles champions.
Giraud, who has been around tennis since he was nearly 9 years old, said the growth of this year’s team is unlike anything he’s seen before in competition and coaching.
“I have seen more growth in the last six weeks from this team than I have seen in any other team that I’ve played on or that I’ve coached,” Giraud said. “Their determination and focus during practice makes a huge difference. They have fun. That’s the thing, we have all of these good things going for us, and they keep going in the right direction. It’s been a good run for us and hopefully we can keep it going.”
While two positions advance to the singles and doubles state tournaments, all six Go-Hawks will compete for a chance to make it to the state team tennis tournament on Saturday, May 18 in the regional final at Clear Lake against Spencer, which begins at 9 a.m.
Giraud said Waverly-Shell Rock hasn’t played Spencer during his time as the Go-Hawks’ head coach.
But, he’s looking forward to the opportunity to play an unfamiliar foe with a chance for Waverly-Shell Rock’s third-straight trip to the state team tennis tournament on the line.
“They’ve [Spencer] have had a good run at the end of year,” Giraud said. “They’ve beat some teams that they’ve lost to. I know that they are going to be tough. If we can stay focused, like we did today and play within ourselves, we should find ourselves pretty happy at the end of the day Saturday.”