Blugolds place third in WIAC championship

    Women’s tennis wraps up fall season with podium finish at WIAC championship

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    Never satisfied. That is the mindset head coach Tom Gillman said he had instilled in his women’s tennis team this season.

    The Blugolds left it all on the court Gillman said, as they attempted to win their 13th WIAC championship this past weekend at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison.

    The Blugolds didn’t claim the championship trophy, but they did wrap up the season with a third-place finish. UW-Whitewater ended up winning their 16th WIAC championship and UW-La Crosse was runner-up.

    “It was an unbelievable weekend for our team,” Coach Gillman said.

    After two days of competition, UW-Whitewater had compiled 63 points. Meanwhile, La Crosse was second with 51 points and Eau Claire was third with 47.

    At No. 1 singles, sophomore Sarah Henderson defeated UW-River Falls’ Kelsey Hochberger 6-2, 6-2, but said she lost a tough match in the second round against a familiar foe in La Crosse’s Bridget Bellissimo by a score of 3-6, 6-0, 6-3.

    “I’m happy with how I played this weekend. Bellissimo beat me in the regular season, and I was excited to have a shot at her again,” Henderson said. “Taking her and the rest of the UW-La Crosse team into three sets was promising for our team, it showed how much we’ve improved.”

    No. 2 singles Olivia Gallagher defeated UW-Stout’s Emma Pedersen 6-1, 6-3. Gallagher moved on to the second round where she lost in three sets to La Crosse’s Kimmy Mrozek 2-6, 7-6, 4-6.

    “We were only three points…from defeating La Crosse,” Gillman said.“UW-La Crosse was one of the most talented teams I’ve seen in awhile.”

    Gallagher finished her fall season finishing third after defeating UW-Stevens Point’s Emily Kleist 6-3, 6-0.

    “We proved a lot this season after losing three of our top seniors,” Gallagher said. “Moving forward, we are going to keep improving and continue encouraging each other so we can knock La Crosse off next season.”

    At No. 2 doubles Paige Kuepers and Olivia Gallagher lost 5-8 to Whitewater All-Americans Jillian Wallace and Alicia Beck.

    “Paige and I played strong against two All-Americans in No. 2 doubles and we showed we can stick with anyone,” Gallagher said.

    No. 3 singles Colleen McCullough made it all the way to the championship before losing to Whitewater’s Bridgid McGuire 1-6, 3-6.

    Coach Gillman said he was impressed with his team’s success.

    “It was quite a fall season. This team deserves to be considered one of the most improved teams this program has had,” Gillman said. “After losing three of our top players last year, we competed with a La Crosse team that lost none of their top players.”

    Gillman said this team is one of the most successful teams he has had the opportunity to coach.

    “They’re ‘worker bees’ Olivia Gallagher and Sarah Henderson are great examples of this,” Gillman said. “They proved their mindset of never being satisfied, and this offseason will include setting goals and learning to strive for the next goal as it arises.”

    Gallagher, who played a combination of No. 6 and No. 7 singles last year, made the jump to No. 2 singles in just one season. In addition to Gallagher’s lineup leap, Sarah Henderson, only a sophomore, improved from No. 4 singles to UW-Eau Claire’s No. 1 singles player.

    “Being in an atmosphere of encouragement, being accepting, and having a coach who continues to motivate me has enabled me to improve year-by-year,” Gallagher said.

    Gallagher also said how the younger girls have contributed to the team’s success this season, as they pushed the upperclassmen to work even harder.

    Henderson said she looks forward to seeing how the team will improve from a team standpoint and from an individual standpoint.

    “I’m excited to see our team grow in the next two years,” Henderson said. “If we all focus on the things we need to improve on, we are going to be very successful.”

    The Blugolds will start their spring season on March 20 as they travel to Arizona for a springbreak tournament. This tournament will prepare the Blugolds for their spring tournament on April 30 where they will play the top four finishers from the WIAC Championship.