MANITOWOC, Wis. (WFRV) – Olivia Minikel feels confident heading into the Division One State Tennis Tournament. Her second ranking helps, and so does her first-round bye. But Minikel’s confidence comes from the fact that she had been to the tournament before.
The Manitowoc Lincoln junior placed fourth in the tournament as a freshman, but said that ranking with an asterisk, as it was condensed due to COVID. Minikel’s sophomore year she entered the tournament as a nine-seed and finished seventh.
Minikel knows there will be added pressure on her this year; she has not lost a match this season and goes into the tournament 26-0. But she will not let the pressure get to her.
“Going into the match I feel more pressure than when I’m actually in it. I honestly feel comfortable on the court most of the time. Like when the racket is in my hands, I feel comfortable,” Minikel said.
Over the past two years, Minikel worked on her forehand, calling it a “weapon”. Her coach, Stephanie Henschel, said Minikel’s best asset is her footwork.
Minikel has a chance to face off against a familiar opponent, the top-ranked Parker Christensen from Elkhorn Area. Christensen and Minikel have played against one another for seven years, both as opponents and as doubles partners.
“I really would like to beat the one seed in the final…that would be awesome. Because we’ve been playing since we were ten years old, so we know each other really well. So it would be awesome to beat her in the state final,” Minikel said.
Coach Henschel does not have experience working with Henderson, and said her fresh perspective could benefit Minikel if the two do meet in the finals.
Henschel has worked with Minikel since the tennis star was five years old. Henschel worked at the Manitowoc YMCA and remembered a young Minikel hitting the ball with her parents. It was then that her future coach saw what could be.
While both coach and player hope the tournament ends in gold, Minikel was nearly speechless when asked about bringing a championship back to Manitowoc.
“That would just be amazing…I don’t even…I have no words…I don’t know….that would just be awesome,” Minikel said.
Henschel said it would be “incredible for girls. I think girls need that role model and she would be an excellent role model. She already is…she doesn’t really have to do much there, she’s already doing an amazing job.”
The Division 1 Singles tournament begins on Thursday, October 12th and Minikel’s first match is at 5:30 p.m.