Women’s tennis clinch bid to NCAA Tournament

After defeating UW-La Crosse  5-1 and UW-Eau Claire 6-0 on Saturday, the women’s tennis team won the WIAC Final Four and clinched a bid to its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament.

Play begins on May 11.

“Everyone played as well as they could have,” head coach Frank Barnes said. “The other teams are looking at us as the team to beat, so they’re swinging away with nothing to lose.”

After the victories Saturday, the ’Hawks have won 40 consecutive WIAC matches dating back to October 7, 2006.

Seniors Kalla Schaefer and Annie Smith led the way for the ’Hawks, winning both of their singles and doubles matches in the championship against UW-Eau Claire.

“I think I played pretty good on Saturday and it was a good day for us as a team,” Schaefer said. “In doubles my partner was playing really well too.”

Being the fifth straight year in which the ’Hawks will compete in the NCAA team tournament; Barnes said experience has been and will continue to be key for the team.

“Experience has probably been the difference in this year’s team,” Barnes said. “We know what we need to do to beat top teams and senior experience is huge.”

Schaefer and Smith also said that experience has been a strong suit for the team all year.

“It’s a little easier when you can come in and know how things are going to go,” Schaefer said. “We’ve played some of these teams before too, which is always nice.”

Smith agreed.

“It’s good to know how things work and what to expect,” Smith said. “I’ve played a bunch of the girls before so I can kind of give the younger players a scouting report and let them know about their opponents.”

The regional sites and pairings for the NCAA Division-III team championship will be announced on May 8.

UW-Whitewater could end up being a host site, Barnes said. That will depend on which other teams qualify because there is a 500-mile rule in place by the NCAA.

As for the two weeks between now and regional play, Barnes said the team will do what it’s done for the last few years.

He said they will practice hard, take some time off for the team banquest and then practice some more before hitting the road.

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