History's at the doorstep waiting for the Homestead girls tennis team.
All the Highlanders have to do now is walk through the door.
The groundwork for a fourth straight WIAA state team title for the Highlanders this weekend has all been laid. Homestead has not been challenged by more than a 6-1 dual meet score all year, and after the dominating efforts the Highlanders turned in at the state individual tournament last weekend, it seems all the air has been sucked out of the room as far as anyone seriously challenging the team this time around.
Still, even with newly crowned state singles champion Elizabeth Konon, 2008 and 2009 state singles champion (and third this season) senior Aly Coran, state fifth-place singles finisher Mardee Merar (25-1) and state doubles champions Carly Peck and Sophia Lococo in her arsenal, coach Jackie Egelhoff is still in full lockdown mode as far as team state is concerned.
"Seriously, I'm nervous," she said of play this weekend at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison. "Green Bay Southwest (the quarterfinal opponent Friday) has very good doubles teams and they did well last week (at the individual tournament). We're looking to have to work for it."
"I wish I were a little calmer."
Please forgive statewide coaches if they roll their eyes at that statement, even as the unbeaten Highlanders swept the singles and doubles titles at the individual tournament for the first time ever in their long and successful run.
For they know Egelhoff has her team thinking the same way she does.
Take Konon (32-0), for example. She turned in an impressive straight set run to her first singles title, including a semifinal win over teammate Coran (26-1) and a well-played 6-1, 6-1 victory over top-seeded Maddie Johnson of Onalaska in the final.
"This is just a great confidence booster," Konon said. "We can't look past anyone because all the players (at this level) are really good. We know we have a real chance at winning it all again. So we're going to work as hard as possible because you never know."
Or Peck, who finished an unbeaten season with Lococo (32-0) at her side, dominating the doubles field with a net-rushing, aggressive form of tennis that overwhelmed opponents, including a 6-1, 6-4 semifinal rout of the fourth-seeded team from Brookfield Central, and a 6-0, 7-5 hammering of Sarah Woods and Mary Newby of Divine Savior Holy Angels in the final.
That last win was impressive because Woods was one-half of a state doubles championship team in 2009 and Nicolet coach Tim Koppa called her "the best doubles player in the field" at the individual tournament last weekend.
Like Konon, Peck is taking nothing for granted this weekend.
"We're pretty confident," she said, "but still, we're going to practice pretty hard this week on a few things."
"We're not going to let up."
Lococo, who couldn't help but get a little emotional and teary at the awards ceremony last weekend, was in full alignment with her teammates as far as her attitude was concerned.
"We're in a better place right now," she said, "but we're still going to take one match at a time. We're not going to get caught up in what could happen or what should happen."
You begin to get the picture about how ready this team is.
They are just so tight right now that no individual disappointments are going to get in the way. Take Coran, who after her stunning dispatch by Konon in the semifinal still remained fully engaged.
She did not pout or go into the tank.
"They are friends, and they room together at state," Egelhoff said of Coran and Konon. "First and second singles, third and fourth singles, the doubles teams - they all do that every year and we didn't change it this time around (because of the potential semifinal meeting)."
"It wasn't really as hard as we thought it would be. They were even kidding around just before the match."
Coran's response included a 6-2, 6-1 win over Lily Hayes of Whitefish Bay in the third-place match. And then to really show how much she was into the championship Saturday, she came over to watch Peck and Lococo put the final touches on their title and then realized that it was match point and no one was taping it.
So, she whipped out her camera and recorded the historic moment.
"And we watched it again and again on the way home," Peck said.
Even Egelhoff, with 40-plus years in the game, was impressed by the dominant showings of her titlists.
"We started looking at Elizabeth (Konon) when she was coming up in sixth and seventh grade," said Egelhoff, "and we even suggested to Aly (Coran) that she start getting to know her and hit with her and right now, Elizabeth is making it look so easy. Her anticipation is so good. She never looks like she's being rushed. …
"There were a couple of rallies in the final (with Johnson), where you'd get 14, 15 balls going back and forth hit at extremely high speed (in a rally) and Maddie would hit what she thought was a winner and here it comes right back to her.
Konon said Egelhoff and assistant coach Rick Vetter told her to fight for every point.
"'Fight until the match is over.' … I knew that this would be tough, but I really wanted it to happen, but I wasn't sure when it would," Konon said.
"I'm very excited and speechless about this. All I can seem to remember is that I just wanted to get over to the doubles court and cheer on Carly and Sophia."
Which was also the subject of an admiring glance by Egelhoff.
"They had to work to keep the fire," she said. "The Central team pushed them a little in the second set (in the semifinal) and they had to work to finish that out.
"They're just a great combination. Carly started out as more of the set-up person from the baseline while Sophia would rush to the net to finish things off. She loves to go there."
"That's where things happen, where it's fun," Lococo said with a chuckle.
"But this year," Egelhoff added, "Carly became more aggressive and was equally as comfortable going to the net."
The pair are the first doubles champions for Homestead since the sister duo of Lindsey and Stacy Brock in 1999.
And now, this weekend the Highlanders are looking to finish what they started.
"This is going to be sad when it's all over," Peck said, "but then again, that's what our memories will be for."
Great memories, indeed.
Individual titles in the bag for Homestead netters
Fourth team title within grasp
STATE TEAM BRACKETS
Nielsen Tennis Stadium, Madison, Friday and Saturday
Friday quarterfinals, 5:30 p.m.
Eau Claire Memorial vs. Madison East
Green Bay Southwest vs. Homestead
Middleton vs. Nicolet
Oshkosh West vs. DSHA
Saturday semifinals, 9 a.m.
Championship, 2 p.m.
Taking nothing for granted, Homestead netters ready for fourth straight team title
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