After a final set that went 75 minutes, all Middleton freshman Ian Connell wanted was a cold shower and the comforts of his mattress following a draining victory.
Who could blame him?
After all, he had just pulled off a 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (8) win at No. 2 singles over Hartland Arrowhead’s Cole Contardi to secure a 4-3 decision over the Warhawks in a WIAA Division 1 state tennis quarterfinal on Friday night at Nielsen Tennis Stadium.
With all on eyes on him and a place in the semifinals on the line, Connell exhausted every part of himself to claw back for victory.
Don’t worry. He still had enough energy to sprint into his teammates’ raucous huddle as the clock ticked well past 10 p.m. by the time it was all said and done.
“I just had to dig deep and fight for every point,” Connell said.
That he did.
After winning the first set, Connell lost a late lead in the second set as Contardi carried momentum into the fateful third set.
Contardi won the first two games before the freshman tied it right back up.
The junior from Arrowhead kept putting pressure on the Connell and looked like he secured a back-breaker when he won a long point to go up 5-3.
Still, Connell never wavered and showed a poise far beyond his years.
“My coaches just told me to keep going and going and going and never stop, I guess,” Connell said.
In a match that seemed like it never would, Connell tied things back up at 5-all before falling behind 6-5. He looked at match point square in the face a couple of times before tying it back up and sending it to a best-of-7 tiebreaker.
Connell raced out to a 6-3 lead, only to have Contardi tie it back up and then go up a point at 7-6. It was a fitting way to close out a duel that took over 4½ hours to play.
Connell ultimately got the advantage back into his favor, and a double fault finally ended the ultra race at 10-8 in the tiebreaker, sending the Middleton faithful into a frenzy.
“I’ve never played in a match like this before,” Connell said. “My first big match. Had to keep going.”
Coming from behind was the theme all night for Middleton. After falling behind 3-0 to begin the duel, the Cardinals got a default win at No. 1 singles from Ryan Gold before a pair of doubles teams evened the score.
Jordan Chang and Anders Clark won at No. 2 doubles 7-6 (2), 1-6, 6-3.
The senior pair of Sam Dettman and Brandon Bodak won 6-1, 6-4 at No. 1 singles to set the stage for their teammate.
As seniors, Dettman and Bodak felt a responsibility to put their younger teammate in a position to succeed.
“If I was going to put it on anyone, I was going to put it on me or Brandon or Ryan (Gold) to go out and tie it up,” Dettman said. “I think we like the pressure.”
Milwaukee Marquette 7, Mukwonago 0
The top-seeded Hilltoppers (24-3) swept the Indians (21-7), led by the No. 1 doubles team of seniors Jake Stockhausen and Teddy Brodzinski, who earned a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Andrew LaBelle and Ryan LaBelle.
Eau Claire Memorial 6, Green Bay Southwest 1
The Old Abes (27-3) defeated the Fighting Trojans (21-10). Southwest’s only victory came from No. 1 singles player Johnny Zakowski, who won the individual state singles title last weekend.
Brookfield East 6, Neenah 1
The Spartans (23-3) defeated the Rockets (10-8) with help at No. 1 singles, where senior Jared Lawatsch beat Andy Knutson, 6-2, 6-7 (5).