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Tennis team serves up successful surprise

By Sam Bittner
posted May 26, 2011

Dark clouds and some of the worst spring weather in recent memory have overshadowed what is quietly becoming one of the best kept secrets in Oshkosh. The varsity tennis team has cruised to a 6-2 record in conference play, establishing itself as one of the favorites to contend for the conference title. They placed second overall, on the heels of last year’s disappointing finish, when the Wildcats found themselves buried in the middle of the pack.

Success has come as a surprise to many, considering the team faced the daunting prospect of replacing six out of ten varsity spots as a result of graduating seniors.

“I was definitely worried about the upcoming season” said Head Coach Debbie Heinen. “But new players stepped up and filled the roles we needed them to.”

Unexpectedly, the depth that seemed to be the most glaring fault proved to be the greatest asset of the team.

The team has gotten impressive production out of 4 singles player senior Taylor Moore, who has posted a nearly perfect record so far.

“I knew I had the potential to have a strong season because of my first place finish last year,” he said. “I felt like I could compete with anyone.”

The comically mismatched 3 doubles team of senior Max Haraldsen and junior Eric Moline has experienced similar results despite vastly different styles of play between the two. Between Moline’s effective ground strokes and Haraldsen’s aggressive net play, they have ascended to the top of the conference.

“My partner [Moline] is more of a singles player and I can’t understand half the things he says,” said Haraldsen. “We’re always fighting, but somehow it works.”

Moline has his wonders on the team’s efficiency as well.

“A few times we have almost actually gotten in a fight, but we took it out on our opponents,” he added. “For the record, I would have won.”

Establishing chemistry between the doubles teams has been the key to their success this season.

“Communication is key to winning in doubles,” said 1 doubles player sophomore Austin Engel. “My partner and I say something between each point. It could be to talk strategy or just to keep the energy level high. It doesn’t matter, it just becomes habit after a while.”

The 2 doubles team of junior Andrew Wildish and freshman Michael Buege places equal importance on the communication.

“A few simple words can be enough to pump your teammate up and swing the momentum in your favor,” said Wildish.

Perhaps even more pivotal to the Wildcat’s season is the ability to pull out close matches.

“Every year there are going to be matches that could go either way,” said Heinen. “But the difference between a great season and an average season is finding a way to win the close ones.”

For 3 singles player sophomore Alex Boettcher, the difference between a losing and winning season has been his excellence in three set matches.

“I think [Boettcher] does it on purpose,” said 2 singles player sophomore JT Casper. “It seems like every match goes into a third set for him. Maybe he feels more comfortable with the pressure, or maybe he just wants to keep us waiting.”

Casper is no stranger to pressure, as he and junior Mark Lemancik have both made the transition from doubles last year to singles this year.

“In a lot of ways, [playing a] singles [match] is a higher pressure game because you don’t have a partner you can rely on, but I enjoy the challenge,” said Casper.

Lemancik agreed.

“You can’t make the transition overnight,” he said. “It requires a lot of work over the off-season.”

The hard work had paid off and when the conference tournament was fast approaching, the team found itself in a position to retaliate against cross-town rival Oshkosh North after suffering a close loss to them earlier in the season. A late season victory over the Spartans launched the Wildcats into the second place spot in the conference.

“[North] edged us 4-3 during the season,” said Heinen. “We had a great opportunity now to make up for that loss.”


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