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Wildcat tennis posts 2-1 week

Wildcat girls tennis coach Chad Forde said the Cats' 5-2 Big Rivers Conference victory at Rice Lake Thursday, Aug. 31, was by far the team's most solid match of the season.

"Having great forehands and backhands are nice, but having mental toughness and physical fitness are even more powerful," Forde said. "This was our first match of the season where the girls put all three of those together and it makes the second half of the season really exciting."

River Falls also defeated Osceola, 5-2, Monday, Aug. 28 and gave BRC rival Menomonie a run for its money in a 6-1 loss Tuesday, Aug. 29, but Forde said they took a big step forward in Thursday's win at Rice Lake.

"We had a lot of first sets that were extremely close, where our girls could have easily got in their own head and crumbled," he noted. "Honestly, that is what has happened a couple times early in the season. However, in all four matches where the first set went to a tie breaker or was very close, we won. That is extremely encouraging because the girls are starting to see how the mental toughness part comes into play."

After pulling out a 7-6 tiebreak win in her first set at No. 1 singles, Gina Filkins rolled to a 6-2 victory in the second. Heidi Marg needed four tiebreakers to take her first set, 7-6, at No. 2 singles before winning 6-3 in the second.

That trend continued in doubles, where the No. 1 team of Liz Radosevich and Olivia Kittleson won 7-5, 6-2.

Forde said it was nice to see the Cats keep their foot on the gas after picking up close first-set wins.

"They had that put-this-match-away mentality where second sets were not as close and you began to notice where our conditioning was paying off," he said. "We were not tiring and our shots were still sharp where Rice Lake began to get flat-footed and a little sloppy."

The Wildcats rolled at No. 4 singles, with Grace Wachtler winning 6-0, 6-2, and at No. 3 doubles, with Greta Schneckenberger and Sophie Johnson winning 6-3, 6-4. Kalea Lemke and Sam Gregor also pulled out a close first set win, 7-6 (2), before losing the next two sets, 2-6, 3-6.

In Monday's win at Osceola, Filkins, Marg, Courtney Westbrook and Wachtler swept the singles matches in straight sets and Lamke and Gregor won 6-2, 7-6 (2) at No. 2 doubles to give the Cats a 5-2 victory over the Chieftains.

"Great match by all the singles," Forde said. "Courtney Westbrook really stepped up, moving from four singles to three singles, and played her most dominant and smart match of the season."

Schneckenberger and Johnson picked up the lone Wildcat win Tuesday at Menomonie, but Forde said the Cats held their own against one of the top teams in the conference.

"We saw again that if our third doubles of Sophia Johnson and Greta Schneckenberger are ready to go and moving all around that they can be a very dangerous team," he said. "It may not have been a team win, but it is good for the girls to see that next level in conference we want to get to with Menomomie is a level we know we can get to in the next couple years."

The Wildcats hosted defending conference champion Eau Claire Memorial Tuesday, Sept. 5, and will visit Chippewa Falls Tuesday, Sept. 12. Forde said he hopes the Cats can use their win at Rice Lake as a springboard to the rest of the season.

"That match was a big step for our girls with seeing what can happen if you buy into what we are trying to do with the program," he said.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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