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La Follette freshman Annalise Yang earns WIAA girls tennis singles title

Jon Masson | Wisconsin State Journal

During a break midway through the second set, Madison La Follette girls tennis coach Nan Perschon talked to freshman Annalise Yang about focus.

Perschon held her hands to the side of her forehead and encouraged Yang to finish with a tunnel-vision approach in the singles championship match at the WIAA alternate fall season’s individual state tournament Friday at Lake Geneva Tennis Club.

Concentration wasn’t a problem for the fourth-seeded Yang — who had her eye on the state prize and making school history, with a goal of potentially seeing her name on a plaque at La Follette.

In a final between Madison-area freshmen, Yang closed out a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Madison Memorial’s Lily Olson, the No. 2 seed.

Yang (10-1) became the first girls tennis player from La Follette to win a state title, according to Perschon and WIAA records.

“It feels good,” Yang said. “Now, my name will be on the wall.”

She accomplished the feat, knocking off the No. 5, No. 1 and No. 2 seeds along the way.

“It’s the first girls state champ (for La Follette) and to do it in your freshman year is pretty amazing,” Perschon said. “The competition that she had to beat was very tough.”

In a primarily baseline battle, Yang was consistent with her groundstrokes and serving against Olson.

“I just play how I play,” Yang said. “I try to play smart and don’t make too many errors, just getting everything in play, running for every ball. Don’t give up, unless you get a great shot.”

Yang believed she played smarter this time after Olson (8-1) defeated Yang in last week’s sectional title match outdoors in Monona.

“She played really well today,” Olson said. “She was more consistent today. She played smarter in the end. (Second place) is not what I wanted, but it’s just really exciting to be here and experience state. We are both freshmen, so we have really good futures ahead.”

Yang rallied past top-seeded Ava Dunsirn, a junior from Neenah, 2-6, 6-3, 10-5 score in a semifinal earlier Friday. Olson claimed a 6-4, 6-4 decision over Manitowoc freshman Olivia Minikel, the third seed, in the other semifinal.

Yang’s mental and physical toughness during the two-day tournament impressed Perschon.

“At this level, all the girls have really good strokes,” Perschon said. “You try to find something that separates them from the other girls. Annalise is mentally tough. She just refuses to lose.”

Yang began playing tennis when she was 7½ years old and said she enjoys the competitive aspect of the sport and playing with her La Follette teammates. She said she doesn’t have a teaching pro or attend a tennis club; she learns primarily playing with her father and older brother, Tyger, a La Follette senior.

Middleton freshman Netra Somasundaram (14-3), the fifth seed, won her two consolation matches and earned fifth place.

The second-seeded team of Neenah junior Sophia Paape and sophomore Shelby Roth (15-1) earned the state doubles championship with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over De Pere seniors Tristyn Lueck and Audrey Ochsner (15-3), the fourth-seeded duo.

In a Madison-area doubles match for third place, Middleton seniors Karsen Dettman and Noor Rajpal (8-1), seeded third, earned a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Madison Memorial senior Jessica Jiang and freshman Sophia Jiang (7-3).

“I’m really happy we got the opportunity, since we’re seniors,” Dettman said. “Third place is great. We are stoked for that. We are just happy to play together. It’s been really fun.”

Paape and Roth rallied from a 5-2 first-set deficit for a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Dettman and Rajpal in a semifinal.

“The match was tough,” Dettman said. “It was close. It could have been anybody’s game. We were up 5-2, 40-0, but they turned it on and played really well.”

Lueck and Ochsner also came back, defeating the ninth-seeded Jiang sisters 5-7, 6-4, 10-5 in the other semifinal.

“They were very consistent,” Sophia Jiang said about their semifinal opponents. “In the second set and the tiebreak, they were the better players. They, honestly, deserve it.”

The Jiangs, who knocked off the eighth-seeded and top-seeded teams Thursday, said they enjoyed their opportunity to play together in the alternate fall season.

“It think we just expected to do our best,” said Jessica Jiang, who plans to attend the Ivy League’s Dartmouth College and study applied math and music. “Since I’m a senior, it was my last time, but it was my first time being at individual state.

“I went in with the mindset of playing my hardest and working with Sophia to win as many points as possible and to just play at our highest level and see how far it took us. We brought a fighting spirit and it took us pretty far, which I’m grateful for.”

This article was originally published by the Wisconsin State Journal on April 24, 2021. To view the full story on their website, please click here.

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