Nicolet boys tennis coach Tim Koppa's cellphone scarcely rang last last weekend.
And that was a very good thing indeed.
Because during his once-a-season (both boys and girls) tennis festival known as the Sweet 16 Tournament, there are usually a plethora of scheduling issues and, of course, the weather almost never cooperates for two days straight.
Except it did this past May 6 and 7, as the latest boys iteration of the tournament went off almost without a hitch. Koppa had to deal with one last-minute scheduling issue on the second day, but otherwise, everything was done by about 2:30 p.m. on a sunny, May 7 afternoon.
And it didn't hurt that his Knights (3-1 for the tourney) led the three area tennis powers in the final standings, taking a strong third as both Homestead (3-1, ninth) and Whitefish Bay (2-2) had a hard time advancing in the championship event in the deep field.
'I think I had the least number of calls I've ever had,' Koppa said. 'There was maybe an issue or two of waiting on one team, and there was a late site switch (for one match), but otherwise, it went exactly as it was drawn up.
'That almost never happens.'
Bay coach Phil Kelbe even had to laugh at Koppa and the field's good fortune.
'The weather gods were with him,' he said with a chuckle
Even the top four seeds played out as expected as top-ranked traditional state finalist Marquette beat Neenah for the title, and Nicolet downed Middleton, 4-3, for third.
Nicolet's 3-1 match result over the weekend, for which the only blemish was a 5-2 loss to Neenah in the semifinals, was extremely heartening to Koppa. Nicolet also earned an important 5-2 North Shore Conference win over Homestead on May 3.
'The kids were really good,' he said. 'In all my years of coaching, they just continue to surprise me. They are just playing so well. Consider that we lost our top two singles players from a year ago, who had been with us forever, along with half of our first doubles team, and add in another good player who moved away.
'With all that, if you had told me that in the middle of the season that we'd be ranked fourth in the state, I would have told you that you were crazy. The kids have just been very adaptable.'
Among the heartening measures has been the return of top doubles player Jack Steinberger from a knee injury. He got in his first matches this week, and Koppa said he looked pretty good shaking off the rust of his layoff.
Veteran second singles player Rafi Barash also came in for praise as he pulled out the critical 4-6, 6-2 (10-5) victory to clinch the third-place win over Middleton. Earlier in the tourney, Nicolet beat University School, 5-2, and Oshkosh North, 7-0.
The league win over Homestead gave the Knights a narrow edge in the North Shore Conference race. Barash pulled out another tough 7-5, 6-2 victory over the Highlanders' Michael Morway at second singles, and the third doubles team of Eytan Robinson and Julian Lowe outlasted Homestead's Jeff Lalande and Eric Simonsen, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, to pave the way for the team win.
Homestead stayed in the league race with a 4-3 North Shore win over Bay on May 5 as Connor McPike outlasted Blue Duke freshman jack Gonzales, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6, at fourth singles, and Simonsen and Lalande eased past Bay's Jacob Gurican and Grey Waedekin, 6-2, 2-6, 6-0, at third doubles to help earn the team win.
In the Sweet 16, the Highlanders lost to Arrowhead, 4-3, and then beat Sheboygan North, 7-0. They then downed Bay again, 7-0, and Waukesha South, 7-0, for ninth. The second Bay score comes with an asterisk as top Blue Duke singles player Patrick Conta had to sit out the match because of a back issue, so all the other Bay singles players had to move up a spot.
Coach Jack Egelhoff was asking 'What if?' after the tourney because in the Arrowhead loss, there were four match tiebreakers, and the Highlanders lost them all.
'We all want to be on the championship side of the draw,' Egelhoff said, 'so we went a little backwards in terms of competition with that (loss), but my guys are really nice and they are improving.'
Egelhoff said that aside from Marquette and Brookfield East (which was not at the Sweet 16), she has rarely seen a season where things have been so competitive.
'You look at all these matches (between the other top teams),' she said, 'and they're all 4-3, 3-4. We're just all so equal.'
As for Bay, the Blue Dukes were 2-2 at the Sweet 16, with splits both days. They lost to Verona, 5-2, and beat Madison Memorial, 6-1. On May 7, they defeated Kenosha Tremper (6-1) before falling to Homestead (7-0).
Kelbe said freshmen singles players Gonzales at fourth and Christopher Hastings at third are improving rapidly, and Anthony Enea is doing well at second singles. The first doubles team of Ben Rackovan and Brennan Gregg is also holding up well.