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Sommer gets win she needed to get to state

A seed planted two years ago came to fruition last Wednesday for Medford senior Brooke Sommer.

After coming up one win short of a WIAA Division 2 state tennis appearance in doubles play last October, Sommer’s dream came true in singles play when she defeated Rice Lake’s Alexa Robarge 6-1, 1-6, 10-4 in a flight-one sectional quarterfinal match at Baldwin-Woodville.

That one win was all she needed to secure her spot in the WIAA Division 2 state tournament, which starts today, Thursday, at the Sports Core in Kohler. Sommer will face special qualifier Maahum Jan from the University School of Milwaukee (10-6) in her opening match at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. The winner faces fourth-seeded Lauren Carson of Waukesha Catholic Memorial Friday morning in the round of 16.

State is a goal Sommer has been chasing since, as a sophomore, she saw teammates Mariah Leader and Lauryn Strick earn a special qualifier spot as a doubles team in 2018.

“It’s nuts,” she said after practice last Thursday. “It’s cool, it’s awesome. I’ve wanted to go since Lauryn and Mariah went. It’s been my goal.”

“We had a ton of girls that went down (to state) that year,” head coach Jake Bucki said. “That’s the whole purpose, just to get that want in them, like Brooke said. That was the goal, especially after last year, having the high expectations and then Ashland came out and beat us in the (flight-two doubles) championship. To get back there this year. It was awesome.”

The Oct. 7 sectional marked Sommer’s third appearance in the meet. As a sophomore, she was the sectional runner- up at number-four singles, where there is no advancement to state. Last year, she and then-senior Kailee Mann lost 7-6 (4), 6-0 to Ashland’s Mara Pierce and Kalli Mikkonen in the match to go to state. Pierce and Mikkonen again won the number-two doubles sectional title this year.

Now, back in singles, Sommer is the first Raider to advance to state in singles play since Kim Woletz and Heather Dray both qualified way back in 2004.

Medford’s Lindsey Wildberg also competed in the sectional meet and placed third in the third singles flight.

Sommer said having sectional experience was a factor in the win over Robarge.

“I think so,” Sommer said. “I know Lindsey was really nervous, she said, because it was her first time there. And I’ve played at Baldwin before for sectionals and that helped.”

“It helped knowing what to expect and playing at those courts at sectionals as a sophomore,” Bucki said. “You know what’s going on. There’s no unknowns. You’re not thinking, you’re playing tennis.”

Sommer played tennis well in the first set, cruising to the 6-1 win. Things got dicier after that.

“It started well,” Sommer said. “I was just getting balls back and she was not getting as many balls back. In the second set, it kinda changed around. My feet kinda died. I just wasn’t moving as well and she was getting more in. It was just about keeping nerves in during the tiebreaker. I got off to an early start and went with it.”

Bucki said one of the first things he tells his players in tiebreaker situations is to do whatever they can to avoid double faults when serving.

“One double fault is 10% of the points,” he said. “That’s all you need. (Robarge) double faulted twice and (Sommer) didn’t at all.”

Robarge had the first serve in the 10-point match tiebreaker and double faulted. Sommer then missed her first serve.

“I missed my first serve, then somebody behind me said, ‘don’t double fault,’” Sommer said. “No, that wasn’t my goal.”

Sommer got that second serve in, jumped ahead 5-0 and then saw Robarge climb within 7-4. Sommer got the last three points to nail down the win.

“I think the experience and the confi dence played a huge role in the tiebreaker and ultimately the overall result,” Bucki said. “(Robarge) came out in the match and she was nervous, had some double faults in the first set and in the tiebreaker again. The girl from Rice Lake had all the momentum. Then it just comes down to confidence, believing in yourself and knowing what to do.”

“Yeah, it’s just about keeping your head in it,” Sommer said. “It’s not over yet. Just breathe. Take a breath before every point.”

Robarge was added to the state field as a special qualifier.

The first-round win allowed Sommer to get two more worthwhile matches. In the semifinal, she had a rematch with Great Northern Conference rival Becky Larrain of Newman Catholic. Larrain won 6-1, 6-1 and went on to win the sectional title. Sommer had another rematch in the third-place match against Arianna Smith of Eau Claire Regis, who won the match 6-1, 6-2.

The rematch with Larrain was one Sommer said she wanted. Both she and Bucki felt it was much closer than the 6-1, 6-1 score indicates.

“I got to swing away,” Sommer said. “Becky was the most fun to play. I was playing better than her too than against Regis. I had long deuce games with Regis. It was a lot of fun.”

“Those are two really big matches for her going into the state tournament to see Becky, who’s going to be seeded, and then the Regis girl, who probably won’t be seeded but she’s right in that range, that top-10 caliber player,” Bucki said.

At 6-11, Sommer will go into state as an underdog. Her first year in the number- one singles flight brought some challenges. But despite losses to some tough players, Sommer’s confidence has grown the more she’s competed with them.

“The season was a little rough at the start,” she said. “I was pretty down playing people who were beating me, who were better than me. You just keep improving, you get better. You have close matches, then you don’t have close matches.

When you play the people better than you, it helps you a lot because you know what you need to do and you find out you can play good points with them.

“I realized I can hit with these girls,” she added. “I’m not winning all the games or anything, but I can hit with them and compete with long games.”

Sommer said her biggest improvements came in her backhand shots and her serves.

And now, to end a season that no one could be certain would even reach this point, Sommer couldn’t have asked for a better ending.

“My goals are just to have fun and play my best,” she said. “I know Lauryn and Mariah, when they went, they had fun and they put it all out there. That’s what I want to do.”

Wildberg third

Medford’s Lindsey Wildberg also competed at the sectional meet and placed third in flight three singles.

She got a tough draw to start, facing undefeated Lily Marquand of Amery in the semifinal round. Marquand improved to 14-0 with 6-3, 6-2 win. Wildberg finished the year 10-6 when she beat Wisconsin Rapids Assumption’s Carly Hintz for the second time in seven days, this time by a score of 6-3, 6-1.

Maddie Metz of Eau Claire Regis knocked off Marquand in the flight championship 6-3, 6-4. Other Great Northern Conference players to advance to state included the number-one doubles teams of Grace and Ava Sukkanen of Newman Catholic and Ella Schroeder and Marissa Stolt of Stevens Point Pacelli and, in Division 1, Antigo’s number-two doubles team of Ellie Preboski and Elli Stank.

Medford’s Lindsey Wildberg, shown here in an early-season meet against Rhinelander, won nine of her last 10 matches and finished third at the WIAA Division 2 Baldwin-Woodville sectional in number-three singles.MATT FREY/THE STAR NEWS