EAU CLAIRE — Senior Charlotte Sax and her freshman sister, Caroline, made state champions out of the Middleton girls tennis team on Saturday.
The Sax sisters, who play No. 3 doubles, clinched the Cardinals’ 4-3 victory over unbeaten and top-seeded Neenah by outlasting Bradyn Gentile and Alise Van Dyke 6-2, 7-6 (7) in the WIAA alternative fall state team tournament final at the Menard Tennis Center.
“They were the last match on,” Middleton coach Mathew Given said.
The previous six flights had ended with the teams tied at 3.
The second-seeded Cardinals (9-2 in duals) beat the Rockets (16-1) to earn the second state championship in program history and their first since 2013 in their eighth trip to team state.
“We knew that if we brought our best from the first point, we had a great chance,” Given said. “When we have our full lineup, we are tough against anyone. I always have faith in my girls and I know what they are capable of doing. (I’m) very proud of them.”
The Cardinals’ No. 1 singles player, freshman Netra Somasundaram, beat Ava Dunsim 6-2, 6-2 to avenge a three-loss set to the Neenah junior on March 27, when Neenah beat an incomplete Middleton lineup 6-1 in a dual match.
“(Netra) had match points against Ava last time and just fell short,” Given said. “We had a game plan today against her, and Netra did an unreal job of sticking to it.”
“Ava is a great tennis player and Netra played one of her best matches this year to beat her,” Given said. “This is a huge win for Netra as a freshman and she will look to build off this next year.”
Somasundaram (16-3 overall) took fifth in last week’s WIAA state individual tournament and Dunsim (19-2) took third.
At No. 1 doubles, Neenah’s Sophia Paape and Shelby Roth (17-1), who won the individual state title last week, beat Middleton seniors Noor Rajpal and Karsen Dettman (9-2) 5-7, 6-0, (9). Paape and Roth beat Rajpal and Dettman in their two other meetings this year, including in the semifinals at individual state.
Middleton’s No. 2 singles player, sophomore Sophia Agapov (10-1), took a 6-1, 6-3 win over Nora Paape. Given said Agapov was absent the first time Middleton meet Neenah.
At No. 3 singles, Neenah’s Olivia Heroux took a 2-6, 6-3, (8) win over Middleton sophomore Amy Li (7-5). At No. 4, Middleton junior Sheila Conrad (8-3) beat Megan Stielow 6-4, 6-2. At No. 2 doubles, Neenah’s Elizabeth Risgaard and Annalise Zenzick beat senior Cece Hujanen and junior Rose Ryan (8-2) 6-4, 6-0.
“This is a group of girls that showed up each and every day ready to get better. They deserve every bit of this,” Given said. “(We) will miss this group of seniors. They have really paved the way for this younger group and showed what it takes to win a state title.”
Middleton took a 6-1 semifinal victory over third-seeded Ashwaubenon (8-4), sweeping the doubles matches and getting singles wins from Somasundaram, Agapov and Li. Neenah made the final with a 7-0 semifinal victory over Verona, winning each match in straight sets to spoil the Wildcats’ third team state trip and first since 2002.
Falling in singles were junior Samantha Breitbach (5-12) at No. 1 singles, junior Elsa Queoff (12-7) at No. 2, sophomore Zoe Qureshi (15-4) at No. 3 and senior Hannah Bertrand (15-2) at No. 4. Verona’s doubles players were junior Morgan Kreuser and sophomore Julia Huseth (10-1) at No. 1, sophomores Andrea Chavez-Lazaro and Morgan Witkowski (3-7) at No. 2, and sophomore Erin Nick and freshman Annie Nick (8-5) at No. 3.