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Netters respond to lineup changes

The Wildcat girls' tennis team bounced back from a lackluster effort in a 5-2 loss at Chippewa Falls last Tuesday to give Hudson a run for its money Thursday at home, but in the end the Raiders kept the Wildcats winless in Big Rivers Conference play by leaving with a 6-1 victory.

River Falls coach David Markson said, as disappointing as Tuesday's match at Chippewa Falls, was, Thursday's dual against Hudson looked like an upset in the making early on. He said shaking up the doubles lineup seemed to raise the level of play at all three doubles spots.

"This was some of the best tennis we've played this year," Markson said.

The lone Wildcat win came at No. 3 doubles, where Roxie Fusilier and Mariah Kaiser responded to their promotion with a convincing 6-2, 6-3.

The newly-combined duo of Sandra Meyer and Heidi VanDell at No. 1 doubles started out strong by winning the first set, 6-2. But Hudson's Hanna Naegeli and Casey Fall came back to win the final two sets, and the match, 6-3, 6-3.

Playing together for the first time at No. 2 doubles, Alix Ambur and Claire Helling lost a hard-fought 7-5, 7-6 (5) decision to Hudson's Whitney Theisen and Lauren Duffy. Ambur and Helling erased a 2-5 deficit in the second set to take a 6-5 lead, only to lose the next game and the tiebreak.

Hudson had an easier time in singles play, with Julia Johnson defeating Haley Zimmerman 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1, Nicole Buechler topping Jackie Nelson, 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2, Morgan Karras beating Elizabeth Chatt, 6-2, 6-0 at No. 3, and Morgan Van Allen defeating Sam Langer, 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4.

"The matches at No. 3 and No. 4 were much closer than the scores indicated," Markson said. "Sam Langer, especially, at No. 4 was engaged in a battle all afternoon with long points and long games where she just came up short on winning key points."

Thursday's effort was in sharp contrast to Tuesday's 5-2 loss at Chippewa Falls.

"Maybe it was 'bus lag,' but the girls didn't exactly come out firing," he said.

Zimmerman posted a 6-4, 7-5 win at No. 3 singles and Langer won 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4 singles to account for the Wildcat scoring.

Markson said Nelson, at No. 2 singles, despite being slowed by an ankle injury, pulled to within 5-4 in her first set before losing the next game, then dropped the second set, 6-2. The No. 1 doubles team of Mayer and Ambur lost their first set, 6-2, and fell behind 3-0 in the second set before tying the score 4-4 and 5-5, but couldn't get over the hump and lost, 7-5.

Helling and Ella Bump won their first set, 6-4, at No. 3 doubles before losing a tiebreak in the second set. Chippewa went on to win the third set, and the match, 6-4.

Despite being disappointed at Chippewa Falls, Markson said he was encouraged by the Cats' play two days later against Hudson.

"I'm encouraged that the team can move forward from here and gain some confidence in their ability to compete, even though our next two matches are against high quality competition and may not result in many victories," he said.

River Falls visited perennial BRC powerhouse Eau Claire Memorial Tuesday and will host Menomonie on Tuesday, Sept. 15.