In the end, it was fitting, as the Nicolet girls tennis team's bid for a WIAA state championship ended with a 6-1 loss to eventual titlist and archrival Homestead in a state semifinal dual meet on Oct. 22 at Nielsen Stadium in Madison.
"A lot of these things come down to match-up," said veteran coach Tim Koppa. "We played pretty well, and we're not disappointed, though we would have liked to have had the opportunity for this to come down to the finals."
Homestead was ranked first all year in state polls, while the Knights were second. Koppa said there are efforts being made to seed the state tournament.
Nicolet had advanced to the semifinal with a 6-1 win over Sun Prairie in the quarterfinals on Oct. 21. Homestead went on to beat Neenah, 4-3, in the finals later in the day on Oct. 22.
Koppa said there were chances to swing the momentum against Homestead, but the Knights just couldn't take advantage of them.
"First and second doubles were close, and fourth singles was close," he said. "If we had been able to get one more win somewhere, maybe we would have been able to build some momentum."
The third doubles team of freshman Miah Bohlen and senior Jaida Drame earned the only match win for the Knights, taking a 6-4, 6-2 decision. All the other matches were straight sets, as sophomore Emma Koppa and senior Marli Stellhorn dropped a 7-5, 7-5 decision, and sophomore Annabelle Crowley and senior Elise Gerard fell, 7-6, 6-3, at first doubles.
Sophomore Amy Drame turned in a good effort at first singles against powerful Highlander senior Katya Mikhailenko, falling 7-6, 6-0.
"Amy had three set points in that first set against Katya," said coach Koppa. "They all battled."
The Knights were consistent all fall, Koppa noted. The only other team they lost to besides Homestead was a one-time, 4-3 decision to Brookfield East, which lost to Homestead, 4-3, in the state quarterfinals.
The Knights lose Gerard, who is around 115 wins for her career; Stellhorn, who is close to 100 wins; and Jaida Drame, who closed her career in fine competitive fashion. He was very impressed with Stellhorn, who won three different sectional doubles titles with three different partners.
"She really got the most out of her ability," said coach Koppa.
The three doubles teams combined for around 90 wins this season. Nicolet returns its entire singles lineup.
"We just competed all fall," coach Koppa said. "We lost our first and second singles players (to graduation) last year, and if you would have told me at the beginning of the season that we'd be in this position, I'd have told you were crazy."