EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Eau Claire Memorial girls tennis team is back to the state tournament for the 8th straight year. The Old Abes program is quite the dynasty with their history of success. They’re our Osseo Automotive Athletes of the Week.
“Once you go, it kind of keeps you wanting to go back,” head coach of the Memorial girls tennis team for the past 28 seasons, Jim Litscher, said about the Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison where the state girls tennis tournament is held. It’s quite the familiar place for the Eau Claire Memorial girls tennis team; in 17 of the past 19 years, they’ve appeared at the Div. 1 state tournament.
“The atmosphere is really incredible and unique,” Sierra Auleta, a junior and the team’s 1 singles player, said. “You play in this huge stadium and everyone’s watching you from overhead. All the players you get to see there and all the experiences you have are just like one of a lifetime kind of things.”
Auleta has made the tournament her 1st two seasons as an individual and with the team. Those teams were filled with seniors; this year’s Old Abes squad is a much younger team.
“This year, we’re just resilient,” Litscher said. “We are so young. We had to replace six really good seniors: three of them were 1st team all-state players. It’s really tough to do that. We just kept emphasizing that we were going to get better and see what happens at the end of the year.”
The biggest strength for the team is their depth. From matchups 1-7, there’s no weak point and that’s a main reason for their continued success.
“We have ten good players at seven spots,” Isy Thapar, a junior and the team’s 2 singles player, said. “I think that depth really helps us. For other teams, they have one really good player, but I think that we have ten, so that really helps us.”
“Coming into this year, our team was very inexperienced, and this season has kind of been about putting it all together for us,” Emily Winzenz, a senior who is on the 1 doubles team, said. “A lot of our younger players have really stepped up and won some really close matches, which has really benefitted our team.”
Sixty-one teams had individual qualifiers. Memorial is one of just 14 who had 3 or more individuals heading to the tournament. The singles tournament starts this Thursday and the team tournament is next Friday and Saturday. Memorial will take on #2 ranked Neenah in their opening match.