The plan Zane Navratil has as he prepares to wrap up his
career for The Prairie School boys tennis team is simple.
Instead of worrying about things that could derail his chance to win a third straight WIAA Division 2 singles championship,
the top-seeded Navratil has narrowed his scope to this: Worry only about being the best he can be and let everything else fall into place.
That way, he won’t get caught up with worrying about playing Sebastian Lauterbach of Big Foot/Williams Bay, who will be his roommate at UW-Whitewater this fall. He won’t contemplate the possibility of playing freshman teammate Juan Perez — who matched Navratil’s 27-0 record — in the semifinals. And he won’t melt down over the idea of pulling off a three-peat, which is unprecedented in Division 2 (Mark Loughrin of Greendale won three championships, but they weren’t consecutive).
“Coach (Harold Swanson) always tells me not necessarily to always play to win, but to play to become a better player,” said Navratil, who is 98-17 in his four-year varsity career. “You can do certain things to win matches, but that might not make you a better player.
“So, a lot of times when I’m tight or feeling some pressure, I just go back and think, ‘I want to be the best player I can be.’ ”
Navratil will start his pursuit of a third straight championship at 11 a.m. Friday, during the second day of the WIAA Boys State Individual Championships at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison. The tournament starts Thursday at 10:30 a.m. with first-round matches and concludes Saturday with championship matches starting at 11:30 a.m.
Joining Navratil and Perez from Prairie is the doubles team of Fordy Leipold and Ian Foster. Patrick Anderson of St. Catherine’s is the other Division 2 qualifier.
Division 1 qualifiers are Andre Antreassian of Horlick, David Leffler of Union Grove and the Case doubles team of Gavin Johnston and Ben Rauenbuehler.
Perez, Prairie’s No. 2 singles player whom Swanson said is one year older than his freshman class, has excelled largely by practicing daily against Navratil.
“Each one has made the other player better,” Swanson said. “They work hard together and they both are developing as a direct result. When you have a practice partner like that, that’s better than 90 percent of your matches.”
Navratil and Perez, the No. 4 seed, drew first-round byes Thursday. Navratil opens against the winner of the match between Zachary Le Vene (21-1) of Manitowoc Roncalli and Brice Ruediger (15-3) of Two Rivers. Perez opens against either Joey Kopp (16-7) of McFarland or Noah Pearson (16-7) of Watertown Luther Prep.
Another freshman from Racine in the singles competition is Antreassian, who opens his Division 1 competition at 10:30 a.m. Thursday against Logan Pepperl (23-6) of Eau Claire Memorial. While it might not be realistic to expect too much for Antreassian at this stage of his career, Horlick coach Todd Anderson feels anything is possible.
“He’s got a big forehand that’s probably bigger than most kids in the state as a freshman,” Anderson said. “When he uses it well, he does a nice job.”
Patrick Anderson, St. Catherine’s first state qualifier since Jesse Hardacre in 2010, certainly has had a strong education in tennis. His father is Todd Anderson, Horlick’s coach, and his godfather is his coach at St. Catherine’s, Jason Caspers.
But his first appearance at the state tournament will feature a difficult assignment. He opens at 5 p.m. Thursday against Peter Jaeger (23-2) of Saint Thomas More, who is 4-0 against Anderson and defeated him 6-1, 6-0 in the third-place match of the Brown Deer Sectional last Thursday.
“Patrick’s playing at a level where I think he can push him, but he’s got to get past that mental hurdle of, ‘Hey, can I get him this time?’ ” Caspers said. “That might be a tricky thing to get past.”
Leffler might have cleared a hurdle of his own by qualifying for state for the first time. He opens at noon Thursday against Kyle Wogahn (21-8) of Eau Claire Memorial.
“David has got a huge forehand and, if he’s on, he can play with the best,” Union Grove coach Mike Brannen said. “And being able to make it to state took him to a new level.”
Johnston and Rauenbuehler, childhood friends and aspiring engineers who are playing doubles regularly for the first time this season, open at 2 p.m. Thursday against Nick Fruit and David Wissink (16-6) of Onalaska. If Johnston and Rauenbuehler win, they would play No. 6 seed Chase Gabriel and Jason Jesse (17-1) of Mequon Homestead.
“I think they could make it through two rounds,” Case coach Maureen Asfeld said.
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Leipold and Foster, who were a special qualifier, open at 7 p.m. Thursday against Jimmy and Johnny Pierson (15-7) of Brown Deer.
“They beat that team (Brown Deer) before and they’re playing better than the first time they faced them,” Swanson said. “So, I would expect them to have a very good match.”
WHAT: WIAA State Individual Boys Tennis Championships.
WHEN: Thursday through Saturday.
WHERE: The Nielsen Tennis Stadium on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison.
TICKETS: $6 per session.
Racine County qualifiers
Andre Antreassian, freshman, Horlick, 17-6
David Leffler, senior, Union Grove, 22-5
Zane Navratil, senior, Prairie, 27-0
Juan Perez, freshman, Prairie, 27-0
Patrick Anderson, sophomore, St. Catherine’s 15-6
Gavin Johnston, senior, and Ben Rauenbuehler, senior, Case, 18-4
Fordy Leipold, junior, and Ian Foster, junior, Prairie, 15-10