NEENAH (WFRV) – Being the top-ranked team in the state, the name on the jersey carries plenty of weight on its own.
When you carry the seed lines of the Neenah girls, you become a target.
The Rockets bring their entire lineup – two singles players and two doubles teams – into the WIAA girls state tennis championships as strong favorites. The team includes three undefeateds – two singles players and a doubles team.
Ava Dunsirn, 15-0 in her junior season, leads the way as the top seed in the singles bracket.
In a unique wrinkle, she may have to face her teammate, ninth-seeded Nora Paape (16-0) in the quarterfinals.
There will be plenty of opportunity for an all-Rocket final in the doubles bracket, though, with Sophia Paape and Shelby Roth carrying the two seed and, on the other side of the bracket, Liz Risgaard and Annalise Zenzick coming in as the five seed.
Even more impressive – the Rockets are the top team in the state without a single senior in the lineup. But high expectations come with the territory.
“Being a Neenah tennis player, we always look into going to postseason and state,” Dunsirn said. “Especially in this unprecedented year, through this process of having a COVID year tennis season, it’s really made us grow together as a team.
“With not knowing what postseason would look like, I think we’re all really lucky and really grateful to have this opportunity to go to state.”
The Rockets will compete Thursday and Friday against the state’s best competition at Lake Geneva, marking one of the two finish lines to the alternate spring girls tennis season. Team state is next Saturday, May 1.
Even working through the uncertainty of the season itself, much less the hoops to jump through with the pandemic, has been a challenge. But for a program with the pedigree of Neenah, adapting and rising above obstacles is part of the territory.
“It’s actually been a great season, one of my favorites for sure,” Sophia Paape said. “I think we’ve all bonded a lot this year especially with COVID.
“At the beginning of the season, we couldn’t really have our parents here, so we were mostly just with the team, and I think that’s allowed us to become a lot closer.”
Matches begin Thursday at 9 a.m. at both Badger High School and the Lake Geneva Tennis Club.