McGrails, Speare saddle up for Division 2 meet
October 12, 2011 | 07:43 AMWHITEWATER — On Oct. 5 at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Sectional, it wasn't a question whether Liz McGrail, Annie McGrail and Lauren Speare would reach state.
It was more like, will they become sectional champions?
That was certainly the feel heading into the tournament. With quarterfinal victories early in the morning, Liz McGrail at No. 1 singles and the team of Lauren Speare and Annie McGrail at No. 1 doubles advanced to Tuesday's WIAA state meet, but fell short of sectional titles.
Liz McGrail advanced the furthest, losing 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) in the finals to Madison Edgewood's Sara Murphy in an absolute war. The senior transfer from Rockford, Ill., was happy to make it to state. She qualified by downing Columbus' Alex Breitzman, 6-0, 6-0, in the opening round.
"It was my goal to win sectionals because I won sectionals twice in Illinois," Liz McGrail said. "At state, my personal goal is to podium (top six). I don't want to try to put too many expectations on myself. Confidence is really important for me. But I try to take it one point at a time."
As a team, Big Foot took sixth out of 18 teams. Coach Jim Karedes was pleased with his team.
"We had a great run as a team in sectionals," he said. "Our kids finished the season playing some of their best tennis. I will miss the talents of seniors Kallie Waro, Sarah Abel, Carley Castelein and Sarah Rabic."
In the semifinals, McGrail said she had one of her toughest matches of the year, a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Whitewater's Hannah Runez.
"I beat her twice before sectionals," McGrail said. "She gained some momentum, but I finished it out. She likes lobs a lot, but my lobs weren't really working."
"Liz is a mentally solid athlete," Karedes said. "She has a lot of weapons at her disposal."
McGrail (20-3) heads into her first Wisconsin state meet Thursday at 7:30 p.m. against Elizabeth Manlick from Columbus Catholic. Karedes believes McGrail has a very good shot at placing in the top six.
At No. 1 doubles, Speare and Annie McGrail, a team that was formed only about a month ago, easily qualified for state with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Waupun to start the day.
"We won pretty convincingly," Speare said. "I think we were both pretty calm out there. Once we got through the first few games, we were in the zone. I wanted to just fall down on the court when we qualified for state."
At 10-3, the duo has excelled so far. Speare, a senior at Williams Bay, and Annie McGrail, a Big Foot freshman, mesh despite an age and school culture difference. Speare played doubles all year, but Annie had to join after playing at No. 2 singles most of the year.
"Annie's technically a better player, but I have good confidence," Speare said.
"I'm used to playing with someone older, so it really worked out," Annie McGrail said. "We hit it off pretty well."
Annie said they played together at a tournament and liked the challenge of doubles. Speare said both girls are singles players at heart.
"In singles, the court is all yours," Speare said. "In doubles, you get to share the space with a partner, so it's a little easier."
"I like doubles better because you know someone's there to pick you back up when you're not feeling your best," Annie said. "In the tough matches, it's good to have someone."
In the semifinals, the girls lost to Whitewater, a team Big Foot beat twice this season, 6-2, 6-2.
At state, the girls have high hopes.
"I'd like to make top 16," Annie McGrail said. "We have to work on our volleys. And I need to run to the net, which is hard for me."
"I'd like to see them make it at least into the second round," Karedes added. "Win or lose, I'm thrilled the three girls took me on this ride. It couldn't happen to three nicer students of the game."
Speare said she must work on receiving serves.
Speare and Annie face Kenosha St. Joseph's Thursday at 8 p.m.