Homestead's tennis team comes up short at state
Highlanders tried for record sixth title
There was still a celebration among the families and the players involved in the Homestead girls tennis program on Saturday night after they got home from Madison.
"There was fun and tears and food and then the girls had a slumber party," Highlanders coach Jackie Egelhoff said. "We remembered that it was still a game and that it's a team effort that goes into this....We remembered the happiness."
Earlier that day, in a quietly stunning turn of events, Homestead's five-year reign atop Wisconsin's girls' prep tennis world came to an end with a 4-3 WIAA State Team semifinal defeat to eventual champion Middleton.
The Highlanders had endured a gut-wrenching, 4-3, quarterfinal victory over North Shore rival Nicolet the night before and couldn't quite pull out the victory over the Cardinals, whom they had narrowly defeated in a tournament earlier this season.
"There are no excuses," Egelhoff said. "The Nicolet match was unbelievable. Just phenomenal because both teams played so well, and you have to hand it to Middleton. Those girls played well under very intense pressure.
"I thought the kids handled it very well. It was a finale. All that happiness and sorrow wrapped up in one moment."
With the defeat came an end to Homestead's hopes of setting an all-time state record for consecutive team championships, a mark the Highlanders share with Brookfield Central and Nicolet.
"It doesn't feel good because we did have this opportunity to make history," Egelhoff said. "To have this level of talent for this many years is extraordinary. In a situation like that all you can do is do the best you can with it, which I felt we did.
"...We were spoiled with so much talent."
In that Saturday morning semifinal, all the matches were largely cut-and-dried two-setters with the exception of Highlander Alex Talyansky's 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 decision over Emily Oberwetter at third singles and the wrenching 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3) second singles decision that the Cardinals' Kaisey Skibba pulled out over the Homestead's Anna Kreynin.
"Anna went up 4-1, then she was down 5-4. She got it up to 6-5 and then it went into the tiebreaker," Egelhoff said of the second singles match. "There was so much pressure on those two sophomores."
Homestead got other wins from two-time state individual singles champion Elizabeth Konon, who finished with well over 100 career wins with a 6-1, 6-0 decision at first singles and from the first doubles team of Mardee Merar and Katya Mikhailenko (7-6, 6-1).
"We went in hopeful," Egelhoff said. "Even with three freshmen in the lineup including Katya at first doubles. We also had varsity reserve players from last year playing in doubles. They all played the best they could."
As they did the night before in the difficult quarterfinal win over Nicolet. Konon picked up a 6-0, 6-0 win at first singles, while Talyansky pulled out a difficult 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Knights freshman Elise Gerard.
Freshman Lexi Heth won 6-4, 6-2 at fourth singles while the third doubles team of Hannah Goddard and Dasha O'Brien pulled out a 6-3, 6-3 victory.
Seniors on this talented group include Konon, Talyansky, Merar, doubles players Kate Weitzer and Madeline Slicker and Goddard.
"The seniors did so much for this program," Egelhoff said. "...at the end, they still felt very much as a team."
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