Just 11 hours earlier, Middleton walked off the court following an emotional victory that came down to an ultimate tiebreaker set in which the Cardinals prevailed.
Their reward was four-time defending state champion Milwaukee Marquette in the semifinals. A tough task on its own, and a tougher one with such a short turnaround.
Middleton gave the Hilltoppers all they could handle, falling 4-3 in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal on Saturday at Nielsen Tennis Stadium.
The Cardinals made the Hilltoppers work for it as the match took just a shade over four hours to play.
“Unbelievably proud of the way they were able to come back this morning,” Middleton coach Tony Mirasola said. “Obviously it was an emotional roller coaster last night with the way we had to battle back, but super proud of the way we competed.”
Just like its quarterfinal match with Arrowhead on Friday, the Cardinals fell behind 3-0 against Marquette.
But Middleton held its own at the top with No. 1 singles and doubles, as well as No. 2 singles, all victorious.
“I thought we were better at the top, but they were a really deep team,” Mirasola said. “Had to try and pull out one of those matches in the lower flights, but they were able to piece it together at the right moments.”
Freshman Ian Connell, the No. 2 singles player who was the hero the night before, scored a 6-1, 6-1 win over Josh Guillermo to put Middleton on the board.
While the Hilltoppers secured victory at No. 2 doubles, the Cardinals got to send off three of their seniors on a high note.
First off, Brandon Bodak and Sam Dettman got a 6-4, 4-6 (8) win over Jake Stockhausen and Teddy Brodzinski, a duo that finished second at individual state a season ago.
It was a nice finish for a pair that teamed up for the first time this spring.
“We actually played in the offseason together,” Bodak said. “We just got chemistry.”
To close out the match, Ryan Gold delivered a triumphant finish to his strong four-year career at Middleton. A four-time state qualifier who placed fifth at last weekend’s individual tournament, Gold held off a strong charge from Richard Balistreri to win 7-6 (3), 6-4 at No. 1 singles.
Gold won his match on Friday by default.
“He didn’t get to play yesterday, so it was great he was able to come back and get the win and play well, too,” Mirasola said. “That kid played really well today against Ryan, so super proud of the way he finished.”
Middleton will have big shoes to fill with Bodak, Dettman and Gold all departing. Alton Yang and Jordan Cheng also are varsity players who competed in their final prep match Friday.
Getting back to this stage for the first time since 2016 was a big step for Middleton to try and get back at Nielsen consistently.
“It’s actually pretty big,” Dettman said. “The older kids on the team understand how hard it is to get to state and how much of an accomplishment it is. So that’s been something we’ve really wanted to do for the last two years, and to finally do it our senior year is just more special.”
The Cardinals finished the season with a 20-3 record.
In the Division 1 final, Marquette (26-3) swept the doubles matches en route to a 4-3 victory against No. 2 seed Brookfield East (24-4).
The Hilltoppers won their fifth consecutive state title and 14th overall.
Brookfield Academy’s Pablo Dale won in straight sets at No. 1 singles to prevent a sweep, but top-seeded Green Bay Notre Dame (20-7) rolled to a 6-1 victory over the Blue Knights (15-2) in the WIAA Division 2 championship match.
It was the Tritons’ second title, with the first coming in 2012.