For the Antigo Times
The Antigo boys tennis team finished their conference play for the season with great success at the great northern conference tournament hosted by Rhinelander.
“We came into the tournament knowing we could no longer catch Rhinelander for first place. With second place wrapped up, and no pressure on the team, the boys played with looseness and ended up performing much better than I expected. Every single player elevated their game and I was delighted by their results,” Coach Dave Zalewski said.
The most compelling match of the day came between Antigo’s Tyler Husnick and Rhinelander Logan Wild, with the winner taking home the coveted GNC Player of the Year honors. After Husnick fended off a strong challenge from Lakeland’s Aaron Petersen (6-3, 6-2), and with an ailing back, he and his Hodag opponent split two sets, each ending in a tiebreak. The final set was decided by a tiebreak – first to ten with a win by two points. After a 4-4 tie, Husnick, refusing to yield, reeled off five straight points to bring himself within a point of winning. Wild was not throwing in the towel yet, however, and took the next four points to close the score to 9-8.
That would be as far as Wild would get. Husnick grabbed the deciding point, winning the final tiebreaker 10-8 and staking his ground as No. 1 singles champion.
Antigo’s one other champion came on the racquets of its formidable No. 1 doubles team as Drew Schwarz and Ben Bartletti crushed their opponents, losing only one game out of 25 to dominate Lakeland and then Rhinelander in the final. Not only did they remain unbeaten for the season, but they laid claim to the conference title of Doubles Players of the Year .
“As one opposing coach said to me, ‘these guys are in a different league from everyone else here’,” Zalewski added.
Antigo took home silver in three flights. Tommy Blink had a solid tournament at No. 4 singles, defeating Lakeland’s Aric Van Order 6-3 and 6-1, but falling in the final to Rhinelander’s Russell Benoy 3-6 and 1-6.
The No. 2 doubles pairing of Collin Schedlbauer and Cole Johnson had an excellent first match against a Medford team that defeated them five days ago. On this day the tables were turned. After falling behind 1-4 in the first and with the prospect of winning looking bleak, the Antigo duo dug deep to change the momentum. Tying the score at 6-6, Antigo lost the tiebreaker by the close margin of 5-7. But having turned the tide, Schedlbauer and Johnson never looked back in grabbing the next two sets 6-1 and 6-3. In the final, the duo squared off against a talented Rhinelander pair and placed a respectable match, losing both sets 2-6.
The third silver was earned by the feisty team of Jake Waters and Brody Bunnell at No. 3 doubles who have shown continual improvement all season long. After facing a challenge from Medford’s Hu and Siegel, 6-2, 6-4, they held their own against Bessette and Oestreich of Rhinelander. After dropping the first set 2-6, Antigo fought its way back, playing their best tennis of the year and coming up just short at 5-7.
Andy Turunen and Tanner Stueck, playing Nos. 2 and 3 singles, both had long days, each having to play three full matches. Turunen won his first match against Prochnow from Philips, losing just one game. His second match was against the eventual champion, Marcus Johnson from Rhinelander. Andy gave him a run for his money but lost 3-6 and 1-6. Playing for third, Turunen put up a good fight against Medford’s Josh Brooks, losing 2-6, 5-7.
Tanner Stueck closed out the day in a most entertaining match. After an easy win over Vince Ringersman from Philips, who gave him trouble in their two previous matches, Stueck exchanged strokes with Matt O’Melia from Rhinelander – the eventual champion. Stueck came within a couple points of pulling off the upset. After taking the first set 6-3, he lost his game and did not win a game in the second. But finding his way back, he lost the third set tiebreaker by the close score of 7-10.
With all matches done, the teams and crowd moved courtside to watch Stueck and Matt Holmes from Lakeland close out the day. With every point contested, and with neither player willing to give ground, the audience cheered and clapped as they got to enjoy a match that epitomized the best of high school sports. Each player snagged a set by the same 6-3 score. But Stueck would not be denied, closing out the match and the tournament with a 10-4 tiebreak.
Antigo plays Xavier of Appleton this evening in Clintonville and finishes its schedule on Tuesday against Shawano and Wausau East.