Merrill girls play way into state?s sweet sixteen
The Bluejays #1 singles duo of Olivia Heitz and Liz Smith proved worthy of their top-16 seeding when they captured their opening two matches at last week’s WIAA State Meet.
“What a great tournament, a great year for the team, and a great high school career for these two young ladies!” MHS coach Jennifer Heitz said.
The girls were finally eliminated 6-2, 6-1 in the third round by Nicolet’s 28-4 Erin and Sara Miller, the eventual third-place team. Matches were played indoors at the Nielson Tennis Stadium in Madison.
“It was an emotional loss for us all, knowing that their high school tennis careers had come to an end,” Heitz said. “However, what an awesome time and a great tournament by the Merrill duo. They finished their season as a doubles team with a 12-2 record, and not only played up to the expectations of the seeding committee, but represented Merrill High School with pride. The season was phenomenal for not only these girls, but for the entire team.”
The event capped off a run that saw the MHS girls capture their first-ever Valley championship.
Heitz and Smith had cruised to the round of 16 of 64 entrants with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Madison East’s Heidi Thiel/Maggie Douglas, and a 6-2, 6-1 triumph over Kimberly’s 11-5 Taylor Jorgensen/Carly Van Nuland, upset winners in their opener.
Against the Madison East pair, “Olivia and Liz came out ready to play, and were slightly nervous ahead of the match, but when they stepped on the court they said they felt ready and calm,” Heitz said. “I’m sure it helped that both of the girls had played in Nielsen before and were familiar with the facility, and the surface there.
“Olivia had played at state last year (in singles) and Liz had played there as a member of a Central Wisconsin USTA team. The ladies played a solid match, taking an early lead and went on for a straight set win. They had to make an adjustment to a slower paced game than they were used to, and also had to adjust to a slice underhand serve from one of the players who had a shoulder injury and couldn’t toss the ball for an overhand serve. The low, skidding ball gave them some different looks, but they adjusted well and won 6-2, 6-2 to advance to day 2. They played aggressive and focused.”
In round 2, “this match was quicker and favored Olivia and Liz more with the faster pace,” Heitz said. “Both Merrill ladies prefer a faster-paced, harder-hitting match, and they played some of their best doubles of the year, winning decisively. Olivia and Liz showed a lot of hustle, they communicated well, hit solid volleys and overheads, and placed some really nice serves into the corners to set up their partners for some nice put-away shots. They showed great focus and determination, and had a lot of fun as well.
Next up was the Nicolet #2 seed.
“Having reached the “sweet 16″, the girls wanted to put another win in their column to advance to the final 8, but it wasn’t to be,” Heitz said. “Both Olivia and Liz seemed a bit tentative and didn’t bring their ‘A’ game. They made a few too many mistakes that they couldn’t recover from, and the other team was very solid and aggressive, making very few errors. The experience of the Nicolet team was definitely in their favor.”