Last October, the Regis girls tennis team got the news that every high school sports program dreaded once the pandemic flipped the world of athletics on its head.
The Ramblers, who had just finished competing at the individual state tournament, were prepping to make a run for a team state championship. They never got the chance.
Due to COVID-19 cases, Regis withdrew from the Division 2 team state tournament. Just like that, the Ramblers’ season was over.
“We were all really upset,” singles player Sofie Merrick said. “We just tried to talk though it. It sucked, but we understood the circumstances.”
What a difference a year can make. Twelve months later, Regis has a shot at redemption.
The Ramblers earned a return trip to the team state tournament by winning a Division 2 sectional title last week in Baldwin. A year after missing out due to the voluntary withdrawal, the Ramblers will finally get the chance to compete for a team state championship.
“We’re so excited, especially after last year,” singles player Brittany Martin said. “Last year was so disappointing. We were so excited after winning sectionals and were so close to going before it ended, so this is just another chance. We’re super excited.”
A handful of Ramblers will compete at this weekend’s individual state tournament in Madison before the whole squad returns the following week for the team tournament.
It will be a busy two-week stretch, but after the disappointment of last year, the packed schedule is welcome.
“It was some redemption,” doubles player Evie Shepich said. “It was really exciting to be able to get there again and have another shot.”
Regis won the sectional title comfortably, tallying 37 points through sub-sectionals and sectionals. The Ramblers beat second-place Amery by nine. It was the reward for a long offseason of thinking about what might have been.
“It’s been extra rewarding for the kids,” coach Kyle Seyer said. “They put in a lot of work throughout the offseason and they’ve improved. When you accomplish something and it kind of gets taken away from you, it puts things in perspective. Nothing’s guaranteed, so they had to work really hard to give themselves another shot at state. I’m really proud of them, especially the seniors. They’ve stuck with the program and have been great leaders for us.”
It’s the third year in a row the Ramblers have qualified for the team state tournament. They also went in 2019, where they fell in the semifinals to Catholic Memorial. They’re seeded third this season and will take on Madison Edgewood in the state semifinals.
The contingent heading to the individual tournament this week includes the doubles team of Shepich and Teigan Petersilka, Martin and Merrick. Shepich is the first player in Ramblers history to reach the state tournament four times in her career, Seyer said.
The Ramblers know from experience that nothing can be taken for granted. They said they’ll try to soak in the moment as much as they can.
“Last year was so tough, so we’re all really excited for this time,” Merrick said. “It will be a good final team bonding experience for us.”
Several others from the area will also compete at the individual state tournament. In Division 1, Eau Claire Memorial will have representatives in Molly Hower (singles) and Katie Rentzepis and Kim Harvey (doubles). Hower is the No. 13 seed in the singles bracket. Menomonie’s Anna Wheeler and Jaycie Luzinski will compete in doubles.
In Division 2, several local doubles teams will compete. They include Altoona’s duos of Josie Rondestvedt and Bella Bauer and Greta Schlafer and Khalia Mork. Rondestvedt and Bauer are seeded eighth in the field.
Rice Lake’s Lexington Berger and Kallahan Bowman and Baldwin-Woodville’s Brooke Albrightson and Allison Albrightson are also competing at state in Division 2 doubles.
In the Division 2 singles field, Altoona’s Josie Rechek and Mondovi’s Caitlyn Stadter will compete in addition to Regis’ two players.