The 2021 River Falls High School tennis team celebrates with a first-place trophy after winning the Wisconsin Rapids Tennis Tournament on Sept. 18. Photo courtesy of River Falls High School tennis
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River Falls tennis team accomplishes its season goal

The River Falls High School tennis team completed another successful season as they competed in sub-sectionals and posted some of the best results in recent years for the Wildcats, including accomplishing its season goal of finishing fifth or better in the Big Rivers Conference standings.

The River Falls High School Wildcats and their coach Cassie Erickson had a season that will likely define their program for years to come. The RFHS tennis season began during the second week of August and featured a group of girls at the varsity level that was mostly seniors.

Going into the season, Coach Erickson stated that the goal for the team was to place either fourth or fifth in the Big Rivers Conference standings. The Big Rivers Conference is known throughout Wisconsin as one of the best tennis conferences in the state, as teams regularly make it through sectionals and to the state tournament each season. Because of that, Erickson and the tennis program established a goal of being competitive in the conference in that fourth or fifth slot in the standings.

“We have a really tough conference,” Erickson said. “We wanted to accomplish that fourth or fifth slot, partly because we want to change the program and what our expectations are. We took fifth this year and were 3-4. If I’m looking at individual records, we probably had the best showing for individual or doubles records.”

The standout season for the River Falls Wildcats included the following results for a variety of individuals in both singles and doubles matches. The #1 doubles team of Ellie Hira and Emma Creen, both seniors, finished the season with a 14-9 record. The #1 singles player, which is the toughest position on the entire team, was junior Sylvia Klecker who finished with a 7-15 record.

“Our #1 doubles team had a winning record, and our #1 singles player was 7-15,” Erickson said. “She’s a junior and hadn’t played that position before, so we were pretty happy with her overall play. She also had great leadership throughout the season, and she kept her head up.”

Elizabeth Lemke, the #2 singles player, had an overall record of 8-13, which again is a fairly good record in a tough conference without being a senior. Everyone else on the roster had winning records depending on how they were shifted around throughout the year in terms of either playing singles, playing doubles or playing doubles with multiple partners.

Those records include junior Ella Peters in the #3 singles position with a 13-11 record; junior Ellie Mikla played #4 singles and also played #3 doubles and had a 9-7 record. Senior Zoe Wise was 17-7 overall and played doubles with three different partners throughout the season. Senior Angela Miller was 12-11 at #2 doubles and had a couple of different partners. Senior Ava Noreen was 13-10 and senior Maya Graetz was 12-11 for the season.

“For the first time in a long time, to have individual winning records for River Falls is quite an accomplishment because that didn’t really happen in the past,” Erickson said.

Although the team, statistically speaking, had its best season in years, none of the players were able to make it through subsectionals and get to the sectional tournament. At the subsectional event, Peters won her first-round match but fell in the second round. Wise and Noreen won their first round and also lost in the second round. Coach Erickson spoke about how her team grew throughout the season.

“All of the girls made huge jumps this year in skills, confidence level and footwork moving into shots,” Erickson said. “If I looked into kids overall this season, #1 doubles Hira and Creen did an outstanding job. They played a lot of really difficult teams and they came out on top some and had a 14-9 record. Their leadership, drive and determination really led the team with expectations of wanting to try to make it and win.”

Erickson said that Wise at the #3 doubles position was given a ton of different teammates throughout the year and it didn’t matter who she was with. She always picked that person up, gave them confidence and ended up with a winning record of 17-7.

Other roster moves of note include senior Madeline Keller who lettered this year and played a variety of different matches at the #4 singles position. However, Keller didn’t get into the postseason playoffs.

Moving forward, Erickson hopes to establish a consistent feeder program to help get more talent into the tennis program at the high school level so that River Falls can continue climbing the Big Rivers Conference standings.

October 20, 2021