Doubles team’s six years of competitive tennis together come to a close

Sydney Presler and Morgan Dekan split for graduation, but leave a legacy of camaraderie
Sydney Presler and Morgan Dekan show off their WIAC medals at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium. (Photo from Sydney Presler)
Sydney Presler and Morgan Dekan show off their WIAC medals at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium. (Photo from Sydney Presler)

As the women’s tennis team closes out their season, one doubles team closes the chapter of competing together for the past six years: a journey that started at Altoona High School and ends at UW-Eau Claire. 

On April 27, the women’s tennis team saw its season come to an end with a 5-4 defeat to UW-La Crosse in the semifinals of the WIAC Team Tournament.

Sydney Presler and Morgan Dekan make up the fifth-year and third-year duo that had a winning streak in the middle of the season. Presler technically graduated last semester, but took a few classes to stay eligible for the second half of the tennis season to finish things out with her long-time doubles partner.

Dekan was more than pleased that her partner was going to stay on for the rest of the year. 

“I’m very happy about that. I didn’t want to lose my partner sooner than I had to,” Dekan said.

The pair was pushed to a tiebreaker in their last doubles match where Presler hit her in the back for the first time in their over six years of practicing tennis together. The loss was a hard-fought, bittersweet ending to their long career together. 

“I don’t think it’s hit me quite yet,” Presler said. “I was obviously sad after the La Crosse match because we were so close but proud of the effort that we put forth to get to that point. I don’t honestly think it’s going to hit me until August when Morgan and the rest of the team goes off to start practice, and I’ll just be starting the next part of my educational journey.”

Despite Presler’s official graduation happening soon, that doesn’t mean the pair will stop hitting together. They plan to keep playing casually and will continue their practice of teaching tennis at the summer school program at their alma mater Altoona High School.

Their former coach Greg Emerson fundraises during the year to have Dekan and Presler come back to help out with the free program. It’s the same coach that threw them together for their only doubles match together in high school. 

“He put, for me at least, the love and tennis as a kid,” Dekan said. “He taught me how to play, how to have fun and just enjoy the sport. That’s why I kept playing because I just liked it. I never realized I could be good at it until I was in high school, so I’m excited to work with Sydney and get to teach that to kids.”

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Presler and Dekan both started tennis at a fairly young age before getting more serious in middle school. Dekan started playing tennis with her siblings before getting taken under Presler’s wing in fifth grade.

In high school, tennis players either played as a doubles team or a singles player, so they only played one match as official partners. College gave them both the opportunity to grow as a doubles team.

“Usually within the first little bit of practice the coaches will watch players kind of see if this person’s game might match up really well with this person’s game, and then they’ll do a trial run,” Presler said. “I think for us, it ended up being a little bit different because we went to the same high school.”

An important part of playing as a doubles team is figuring out each other’s playing styles and matching preferences on what types of balls they like to hit. Dekan prefers to play close to the net with volleys and overheads, and Presler likes to take shots at any ball that Dekan doesn’t take. 

Despite knowing each other’s playing styles in and out, their journeys to college tennis from Altoona were quite a bit different. 

Presler went to UW-Eau Claire knowing she wanted to play tennis. Her dad, Kris Presler, is a professor of mathematics at the university. After five years of studying, Presler is planning to head to the twin cities to get her PhD in biostatistics through a grant program focused on neuro-imagery and statistical genetics. 

For Dekan, research opportunities were her main reason for attending UW-Eau Claire, and she didn’t fully commit to playing tennis at a college level until the first day of practice. The team energy and familiarity of having Presler around convinced her to stay on with women’s tennis.

Dekan is an economics major with two minors in environment, society and culture and math. She plans on looking into research in environmental economics once she graduates. 

“I really like the research aspect of when I’ve been on multiple different projects in different disciplines,” Dekan said. “I like the variety and that I get to keep learning and doing things to help people.”

On and off the court, Dekan and Presler maintain their puzzle-piece dynamic, filling in each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 

“I’ve played with other partners and it’s great, we figure it out, but there are shots I leave or go for that I should have left where with her I just always know what’s happening,” Presler said. “We don’t need that time to transition.”

The next steps for Dekan will be to shore up on her singles game and find a new doubles partner for her final tennis season next year while Presler heads to the University of Minnesota, but for this summer they plan on staying together to help out teaching Altoona students tennis. 

They both emphasized that tennis is a lifetime activity important to each of their families. College is far from the end of their time on the court. 

“I feel like I just always have fun on court with [Presler]. I can go in with the worst day, the worst mental attitude and look at Sydney and say: ‘I’m sorry, I don’t want to be here. This is gonna be awful.’ Then, I notice after a game or two I’m laughing and smiling and we’re high-fiving and I’m having fun,” Dekan said. “She just relaxes me.”

Pawlisch can be reached at [email protected]

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