Homestead girls tennis team going for sixth straight state team title
Konon, doubles squad fall in finals
According to her coach Jackie Egelhoff, Homestead tennis player Elizabeth Konon was able to push sorrow aside quickly and had her eyes on a bigger prize following her disappointing loss in the Division 1 state singles final last Saturday.
"I think before we were even out of the building (the Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison), she was tweeting 'Common team, let's go!'" said Egelhoff.
What Konon and Egelhoff were referring to was the Highlander's bid for history coming up this weekend, as they look to win a historic sixth straight WIAA state team title.
Egelhoff hesitated when she thought of what that record-setting championship would mean. Homestead shares the mark of five straight team titles with both Nicolet and Brookfield Central.
"It's a tough question to answer," she said. "It would be nice, a great thing as you think about winding down (a career) and being grouped in with coaches like (Dave) Steinbach (of Brookfield Central) and (Cary) Bachman (of Nicolet). It would be history and I would be most appreciative of the fact that we have come that far."
Egelhoff knows her team is aware of how big a target it has on its back. It's something the Highlanders have gotten a little used to over the years. Only this time around, there is a little more urgency as the opportunity to put the team in the record books is right here with a senior-dominated team trying to accomplish it.
"I told them that it's expected (the pressure)," Egelhoff said. "That this is the major finale. Still, I sense that they're in a good frame of mind and the seniors do want to have fun."
The Highlanders will meet North Shore rival Nicolet in a quarterfinal match at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The semifinals are at 9 a.m. and there is a good chance that Homestead will see Middleton there, a team that has given Homestead some difficulties so far this fall.
The final is at 2 p.m. Neenah, Eau Claire Memorial and DSHA are the top teams on the other side of the bracket.
Nicolet coach Tim Koppa said it's a shame that the coaches' association and the WIAA can't get together on seeding the team tournament noting that Homestead and Middleton are clearly the two best teams out there and they will meet in the semifinal.
"Three of the four best teams are on this side," added Egelhoff.
Before that, the Highlanders will have to lick their wounds from individual state. Konon (30-1) was going for her third straight singles title, but that would prove to be elusive. It began with a tough semifinal Saturday morning with North Shore rival Lily Hayes of Whitefish Bay, who played her best match of the year against Konon before falling 2-6, 6-4, 6-0.
"She struggled a little emotionally (in that match)," said Egelhoff, noting Konon had a tough semifinal last season on the very same court. "She had to fight through that and the match itself. I think it took a toll mentally."
Especially when facing high-powered freshman Lexi Keberle (31-0) of West Bend East in the final, who in the opinion of Koppa "may become the best player ever to come out of Wisconsin."
In an up-and-down match where leg cramps took their toll on Konon in the third set, youth prevailed in a 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 decision.
"We eventually took a medical time-out and she got treatment," Egelhoff said. "She had been limping by the third game (of the final set). She got the treatment, but the leg would just not hold up. She fought and she fought and she beat back a lot of match points.
"It was just too bad. Konon is such a nice girl and works so hard, but that other girl (Keberle) is awesome."
Bay coach Mike Hayes was impressed with how gracefully the whole situation was dealt with, noting Konon said afterward that even with the cramping, she wasn't sure if she would have won.
"The inevitable end came despite a remarkably determined effort by the injured Konon," he said. "Keberle was equally gracious showing respect for the tournament and for the great accomplishments of Konon over the last four years. For the respect each showed the other, both are champions."
Almost lost in the drama was the runner-up finish of freshman Katya Mikhailanko and senior Mardee Merar (33-2), who also finished second, falling to the top seeds seniors Shelby and Tilly Chorney of Waunakee, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, in the final.
"We had lost to them in a tiebreaker in the third in an earlier match, but that was when Katya was still figuring things out (in doubles)," said Egelhoff. "We were confident, we won a set and then things got tight."
Egelhoff praised the Chorneys for adjusting their tactics but added, "we just missed too much at the net in the end."
Other finishes for the Highlanders at individual state included Anna Kreynin (2-1 for the tournament, 24-2 overall) and Alex Talyansky (0-1, 30-2) in singles and Katie Weitzer and Madeline Slicker (1-1, 22-10) in doubles.
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