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With a deep, talented field of top singles players, Oregon junior Ella Peotter understood she wasn’t a shoe-in for a return to the state tournament.

Peotter won her first match at the WIAA Division 1 Stoughton sectional on Wednesday, Oct. 5, and went on to finish fourth place to qualify for state for the second straight year.

“I’m greatly excited,” Peotter said. “I wasn’t sure going into it if I was going to make it to state again because of the sectional having a lot of great players. I played pretty well and I’m proud of myself. My goal was to make it to state. With that goal achieved the rest was for fun.”

Peotter defeated Monona Grove sophomore Eliza Martin 4-6, 6-4, 10-2 to clinch a state berth. She went on to drop a semifinal match to Elkhorn sophomore Parker Christensen 6-2, 6-2. In a third-place match, Sun Prairie East’s Annalise Yang defeated Peotter 6-0, 6-0.

“She hits really hard shots,” Peotter said of Christensen. “The hardest shots I have ever seen. She’s really consistent. She has a really good serve and no major weaknesses. My goal is to win a game.”

In the match against Martin, Peotter led 4-2 in the first set. Peotter said she was more consistent placing her shots in the second set.

“I was kind of hoping with her losing that second set she would be more nervous so if I just stayed consistent she would eventually mess up,” Peotter said.

Peotter cruised in the third set by placing her shots down the line.

“She’s been there before and she’s very calm,” Oregon coach Joan Mohr said of Peotter. “Some of those points were like 50 strokes. It doesn’t fluster her.”

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Mohr said seeing Peotter stay on track despite some big points in the tiebreaker isn’t anything new.

“Tennis is a mind game because a lot of people get frustrated,” Mohr said. “That is what makes them lose a match. Ella stays focused and she just plays her best.”

Mohr said Peotter always looks to exploit an opponent’s weakness whether it’s a backhand, forehand or willingness to attack the net.

“She played an excellent match and hit it hard,” Mohr said of Martin. “I think she might have got a little tired and if someone hits everything back and you are trying your hardest it’s like a mind game and makes you go what am I going to do.”

The Panthers’ No. 1 doubles team of senior Stephanie Lo and junior Anna Johnson lost to Sun Prairie East senior Reagan Schwartzer and junior Grace Kramschuster 6-2, 6-3.

“They are the powerhouses at the net,” Mohr said of Sun Prairie East’s top tandem. “Our kids played great, but they weren’t used to that hitting at the net really hard. It just takes you back because they are firing it at the net and it’s hard to get your racket out there.”

Mohr said she is having athletic director Brittany Spencer look to see which Division I schools have openings for a nonconference matches or in invitationals.

“We want to play some tougher teams next year so when I’m at a seeding meeting and they go, ‘We know your record is better than theirs, but they played harder schools,’” she said.

Mohr said scheduling matches against better competition at the Division 1 level like Verona, Madison West or Janesville Craig would benefit the players returning next fall.

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“They would be used to the harder hits, how to move with them,” she said. “If you are always playing someone easy you don’t have to play hard. You play to the level of your opponent.”

State preview

Peotter (20-5) will play Kenosha Indian Trail senior Lainy Ristau in a first-round match at state on Thursday, Oct. 13.

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“I hope to win my first-round match and get to where I got to last year,” Peotter said.

Peotter is one of only three players from the Badger Conference in the Division 1 state tournament.

The Big Eight Conference has 11 singles players at state, led by Middleton sophomore Netra Somasundaram, the ninth seed, Verona sophomore Naisha Nagpal, the 10th seed, Janesville Craig freshman Lexie Hankel, the 11th seed and Sun Prairie East junior Annalise Yang, the 12th seed. Somasundaram finished fourth at state last season and Yang took fifth.

Peotter defeated Neenah’s Annalise Zenzick 6-4, 0-6, 10-7 in a first-round match at state last year. She then lost a second-round match to Yang 6-0, 6-0.

Elkhorn’s Christensen (26-0) is the top seed after finishing as the state runner-up last year.

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