It was a long day on the tennis courts in La Crosse on Monday.
Baraboo was among nine teams that competed in a rain-delayed WIAA Division 1 Subsectional hosted by La Crosse Central.
After a marathon of a day and a move to La Crosse Logan, the Thunderbirds saw their season come to an end. Baraboo scored four points to tie for sixth as a team, while no Baraboo individuals advanced to Thursday’s Waunakee Sectional at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison.
“It went pretty well, although we had hoped to sneak one of our doubles teams through,” Baraboo head coach Karll Kruse said. “All in all, everybody played really well. We got a good effort out of everybody. … We just didn’t have the firepower.”
Baraboo did pull out four wins on Monday, including opening-round wins for Tate Bates and Chloe Uphoff at No. 1 and No. 4 singles.
Kim Jacome and Elena Holloway won their first match at No. 3 doubles before falling in the second round.
“They’ve been sharper. It wasn’t their best night, but they had a great season,” Kruse said of Jacome and Holloway. “They were probably our most consistent group.”
The No. 2 doubles duo of Jordyn Zalewski and Lexi Johnson were the last T-Birds to fall, suffering a late-night loss to La Crosse Central. Zalewski, who missed almost the full season due to injury, and Johnson fared well after playing together just once during the regular season.
“They had a really good first-round match against Reedsburg.” Kruse said of Zalewski and Johnson. “It was the same team that had beat us in three sets just a couple weeks ago. ... But we just couldn’t match the intensity in the second round after we got on the court at about 9 o’clock.”
The subsectional capped off a season in which Baraboo finished fifth out of seven teams in the final Badger North Conference standings, having gone 2-4 in dual-match play before placing fifth at the conference tournament on Sept. 22-23.
“I think we finished stronger than we started,” Kruse said of the T-Birds, who entered the season with little experience after graduating seven seniors in 2017. “We went out with a lot better team than when we put on the court at La Crosse Central at the start of the year.”
Once Portage took a 24-21 lead in the second set of Tuesday’s Badger North match with Baraboo, most of the pink-clad fans in attendance at Portage High School thought the Warriors were about to even the match at one set apiece.It certainly appeared that the Warriors would indeed take the second set, but the Thunderbirds had other ideas. Baraboo got the break it needed when a service error by Portage made it 24-22. From there, the T-Birds rolled off four straight points to deal the Warriors a heartbreaking defeat on their way to a 25-15, 26-24, 25-18 sweep of Portage.
A pair of kills from junior Lia Kieck helped make Baraboo’s late second-set run happen. A kill from junior Abby Haseley provided the final point in the thrilling second-set win for the Thunderbirds.
“That was huge. Against any team, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing the No. 1 ranked team in the state or the bottom team in the state, that’s hard to do,” Baraboo head coach Morgan Liebetrau said of the second-set rally. “I think the kind of shows our strength. We’re really coming along, as far as leadership goes.”
A kill from Portage sophomore Katelyn Belleau and a ace from senior Tylar Holtan allowed Portage (0-6 Badger North) to take the 24-21 lead in the second set, but they just couldn’t find a way to get one last point.
“We need to learn how to finish,” said Portage head coach Kristin Maass. “We have struggled all season with being able to put a match away when we are ahead. That is something we are continuing to focus on.”
The opening set was all Baraboo (4-2). The T-Birds bolted out to leads of 8-2 and 11-3 and never looked back on their way to a 25-15 win.
The third set was close most of the way, but Baraboo used a 3-0 run to take a 21-16 lead, forcing Portage to take a timeout. Portage did get one of those points back on a Baraboo hitting errror, but the Thunderbirds answered with another 3-0 spurt to go up 24-17. Then after Portage scored on a Baraboo service error, the T-Birds ended the match with a big kill from junior Megan Horstman.
Liebetrau gave credit to her team’s play at the net, which was led by Kieck, who had a match-high nine kills and two blocks, along with Hortsman, who added eight kills.
“My whole front line, we weren’t tipping or roll shotting, or anything like that,” Liebetrau said. “We were just being aggressive. That was big for us, just swinging aggressively.”