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September 26, 2019

By Scott Williams

STEVENS POINT – By the time her No. 4 singles match reached match point, Wausau West junior Molly Schaefer needed night vision goggles as much as a solid backhand or forehand.

All eyes were on Schaefer and Stevens Point Area Senior High’s Tatum Thielman as darkness settled on the SPASH courts.

The Wisconsin Valley Conference dual meet had come down to their three-hour marathon after SPASH and the Warriors had split the first six matches Thursday.

So when Schaefer sent one final cross court backhand that eluded the reach of Thielman to secure an exhausting 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 victory West could finally exhale knowing it had locked up second place in the dual meet portion of the WVC schedule.

Schaefer had no idea her winner-take-all match with Thielman involved such high stakes. That was a good thing.

Talk about added pressure during the 20-plus stroke rallies every point.

“No, I definitely did not want to know,” said Schaefer of whether she was informed her match would determine if West won the dual meet. “I’m so glad no one told me. It would have made me nervous.

“Once I saw that girl plays exactly like me, I knew it was going to be a long match. I’m just so happy I was able to win. I really couldn’t see the ball too well.”

The hard-fought 4-3 win leaves the Warriors well-positioned to make a run at the Valley championship when the WVC Meet takes place Oct. 3 in Wausau.

Wausau East went unbeaten through the dual meet season and holds the upper hand to claim the title entering the conference meet.

Don’t think denying the Lumberjacks the title isn’t on the minds of the Warriors.

“We haven’t won a (Valley) championship for a long time, so it would be really exciting to be able to do it for the seniors,” Schaefer said.

Natasha Bailey and Lilia Teske continued their dominance at No. 1 and 2 singles, respectively. Each of them only dropped a game in cruising to straight set wins.

“(Bailey) is right up there on the top (of singles players),” SPASH coach Michele O’Donnell said. “I thought we would have a chance to win at No. 3 and 4 singles, and No. 3 doubles.”

West coach Steve Wenninger had the same thought.

So prior to facing the Panthers he tweaked his doubles lineup and that may have paid off handsomely in pulling out the meet.

Wenninger switched partners for Rachel Hartman and Madeleine Bizjak, who joined Brenna Holtz on the No. 3 team after playing second doubles all season. Meanwhile, Hartman teamed up with Mia Hoehn.

In their first match ever playing doubles together, Bizjak and Holtz looked like they had been a doubles team since the first day they picked up a tennis racket.

The tandem came out on fire to secure the opening set against SPASH’s Caroline Blakeman and Sabrina O’Keefe. Life became a little tougher in the next set but Holtz and Bizjak found a way to win a tiebreaker to earn a 6-1, 7-6 straight set victory.

“(Madeleine) brings really high energy. She’s easy going and just wants to have fun out there. That really helped me,” Holtz said. “I think her lob shot was a big thing. She gets it over the opponent. Then they hit it to me and I’m able to put the ball away.”

Now all the attention for the Warriors is on the WVC Meet next Thursday and finding a way to bring home the Valley title.

And better yet prevent East from grabbing another championship.

“Our main goal is to beat East. We know we have to beat them and get those points to win the championship,” Holtz offered.

Singles: No. 1 – Natasha Bailey (WW) def. Jessica Kleman, 6-0, 6-1; No. 2 – Lilia Teske (WW) def. Estella Roerig, 6-0, 6-1; No. 3 -Abby Erwin (SPASH) def. Sophia Kohl, 6-4, 6-3; No. 4 – Molly Schaefer (WW) def. Tatum Thielman, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4.

Doubles: No. 1 – Meghan DeBot/Anna Hlavac(SPASH) def. Mallory Names/Katie Meyer, 6-2, 6-1; No. 2 – Leah Olsen/Allison Rust(SPASH) def. Mia Hoehn/Rachel Hartman, 6-0, 6-1; No. 3 – Brenna Holtz/Madeleine Bizjak (WW) def. Caroline Blakeman/Sabrina O’Keefe, 6-1, 7-6.