Dodging raindrops and fighting uphill against top-ranked Homestead, the Nicolet and Whitefish Bay girls tennis teams earned strong second- and third-place finishes in the North Shore Conference tournament, Sept. 27 and 28.

A real bright spot was that Nicolet fourth singles player Morgan Markenson upset Homestead's Jamie Gebhardt, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, in the final to prevent a Homestead clean sweep of all the flight titles.

"She had lost to her (Gebhardt) three or four times already, and that was an absolutely great match," said Nicolet coach Tim Koppa. "Morgan just played some amazing tennis."

The meet was the final tune-up before second-ranked Nicolet and fifth-ranked Bay took part in WIAA subsectional and sectional action. The state qualifying sectional tournament was held at Greenfield. The first four finishers in flight one of singles and doubles and the winners of flight two in singles and doubles advance to the state individual tournament in Madison, Oct. 13-15.

Furthermore, Nicolet was going for its sixth consecutive berth in the WIAA state team tournament. The sectional team champion earns the berth to team state.

Koppa is not taking anything for granted in what has been a very successful fall for his squad.

"We're going to be playing Tuesday and Wednesday (subsectional and sectional)," he said. "We don't normally do it that way, so it'll be interesting to see how the kids respond, and the teams from the other side (the South Milwaukee subsectional) are getting better, so it (the sectional) should be a good tourney."

Bay coach Emily MacKay also remains cautiously optimistic.

"With Nicolet still in our sectional, we know we are going to have some tough matches ahead of us, but I am hoping we can dig deep as a team, leave it all out on the court and walk away with some key wins," she said.

Despite the fact that Homestead won six flights and easily cruised to the NSC tourney title, the event was competitive on several levels as Nicolet was an easy second and Bay a strong third. There was a problem with the final team scores that was still being corrected at time of press.

For Nicolet, the upset by Markenson over Gebhardt (30-2) was huge. Markenson had advanced to the final with wins over Germantown (6-0, 6-0) and Bay (7-5, 6-3) opponents.

The Knights did suffer one upset in the event, as the doubles team of Marli Stellhorn and Emma Koppa lost an intense 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4) final to a Homestead team they had beaten several times before this fall.

Coach Koppa gave credit to the Homestead pair, saying they played "amazing tennis."

In the long-running battle between Homestead's top doubles team and the Knights' top team of Elise Gerard and Annabelle Crowley, the Homestead pair came out on top again, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5).

Other runner-up spots for the Knights included Amy Drame at first singles, Angela Sendick at second singles and Julia Bohlen at third singles, while the third doubles team of Jaida Drame and Mia Bohlen was third. Coach Koppa thought Julia Bohlen had a great tournament.

"It was kind of a weird tournament overall," said coach Koppa. "It got dragged out and a little messed up because of the rain, and we had a weird schedule where we didn't play a match for about a week. If that happens again, I think I'll try and correct it because we came out a little slow.'

Bay's highest finishes came from the runner-up slot earned by the third doubles team of Gracie Riedl and Nicole Steinmetz.

Elsewhere, thirds were taken by Karlotta Galten at second singles; Abby Longo at third singles; Elana Deslongchamps at fourth singles; the first doubles team of Kendall Martens and Jenna Marget; and the second doubles team of Dani Lester and Ali Menard.

"I was overall very pleased with the girls performance," MacKay said. "It was great to see so many girls clinch the third-place slot with our third doubles team making it to the finals. With having Homestead and Nicolet in our conference, we knew it was going to be a challenge, so we very pleased to walk away with third place overall."