MHS girls secure first WVC title

The Bluejay girls tennis team survived an ordeal to wrap up its first WVC title in school history on Friday, accomplished by the narrowest margin possible.
Monday’s WIAA Subsectional was a walk in the park by comparison, but the Bluejay girls worked themselves temporarily to the top of the competition once again, pending Wednesday’s sectional competition.
The Merrill girls had entered Friday’s Valley meet-postponed due to weather from Thursday-with a six-point lead over Wausau East, where every individual win on the season had represented two points.
Thirteen hours after the proposed start, Merrill finally closed out the meet with an 80-78 victory over East.
“We happily accepted our trophy at 9:45 p.m. on a very chilly night,” MHS coach Jennifer Heitz said. “The long day was definitely worth all of the trouble, and we were thrilled to bring home the first ever conference tennis championship to Merrill! If you had heard the screaming, it was extremely high-pitched.
“If we had lost one more match, anywhere that day or anywhere during the regular season, we would have tied East and they would have won it due to their (4-3) win over us in the regular season.
“I told the girls I would buy them cake if they had a decisive win. When we beat West 7-0, they asked, ‘Can you get us cake now?’ I bought them two cakes because they wanted two different kinds and on top of one it said ‘Every match counts.’ On top of the other it said, “Never give up.’
“It was true, every match counts. And everybody contributed throughout the whole season.”
It may have seemed like a whole season occurred in a day on Friday.
“The day started out sunny and dry, but was interrupted by 2 rain delays, moving the matches we started in the morning at 9:00 a.m. to be restarted 4-1/2 hours later,” Heitz said. “It was very windy, cold with intermittent rain! Awful conditions. We worked on the courts to get them dry, two different times, so that we could get the matches in. We (coaches) wanted to finish the conference meet on Friday because several schools had Homecoming on Saturday and some students were taking the ACT.
“Eventually we ran out of daylight, too, and moved to Oak Island courts under the lights, where the final matches finished at 9:40 p.m. Merrill had four matches that needed to be completed under the lights, and it was cold! The girls prevailed over very difficult conditions for tennis.
“The girls missed all the Homecoming stuff, but winning made it all worthwhile.”
Merrill used incredible balance to rack up 22 points on Friday. Hannah Ollhoff earned the team’s only title at #3 singles, and the Jays counted runner-up finishes from #4 singles player Leah Johnson and #3 doubles duo Karina Baacke/Jolene Ladewig.
MHS racked up fourth-place points at #1 singles with Olivia Heitz, #1 doubles with Kelsey Pintens/Kristen Verdoorn and #2 doubles with Sarah Altman/Marissa Bartz. Liz Smith won the consolation bracket at #2 singles.
D.C. Everest edged Marshfield for third 57-56, and SPASH and Rapids tied for 5th with 52.
The Bluejays held a 14-12 lead over Marshfield in Monday’s Subsectional at Wausau East, while SPASH, West and Wis. Rapids tied for third with 10. East, surprisingly, was sixth with 8.
“Overall I was really happy with how everybody played,” Heitz said. “What a different day than Friday. It was hot and sunny.
“I was so disappointed that Hannah didn’t get a chance to advance to sectional. I was really happy that Kristen beat the Valley champ in straight sets to advance.”
Merrill used a different alignment where Heitz and Smith joined up for #1 doubles, and Ollhoff (#1), Verdoorn (#2), Johnson (#3) and Pintens (#4) played singles.
Verdoorn is the only singles player that reached Wednesday’s event, to be held in Stevens Point. She took her two matches in straight sets. Both the Heitz/Smith and Baacke/Ladewig doubles teams will play. They also won in straight sets. Entrants in the #1 position played just one match, while every other position played twice at subsectional. Pintens and Altman/Bartz won their first match and lost the second. Ollhoff and Johnson were defeated in their openers.

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