Sophia Cole and Riley Schumaker have ended Ellsworth tennis' sectionals losing streak. The two doubles team is the first Panthers team to win a match at sectionals in years.
Although the duo was eliminated by Rice Lake in the second round of sectionals held on Wednesday, Oct. 4, they were able to make it past the first round of tournament play—something that no recent Ellsworth tennis players have been able to do.
The Panthers two doubles team (13-6) first faced Medford's Mandi Baker and Mariah Leader (17-7) late Wednesday morning. Medford struggled with hitting shots in play—partially due to the wind—and couldn't respond to Ellsworth's superior ball placement. The Panthers took the first set 6-4.
The roles reversed for the beginning of the second set. Cole and Schumaker struggled early with serving, keeping the ball in bounds and returning Baker and Leader's tough shots at the net, giving Medford an early 4-1 lead.
Most watching the match probably expected it to end in a tiebreaker, but Cole and Schumaker had other plans. The two doubles team kept their composure throughout the match, never emitting anything but words of encouragement to each other, and came back to finish the second set just like the first with a 6-4 score.
The Panthers were moving on to the second round of sectionals.
Unfortunately, the Panthers would go on to lose in three sets, 6-4, 1-6 and 4-6, to Rice Lake's Katy Dong and Alicia Kinziger (10-9) in the two doubles sectional championship, but just getting past the first round of play was enough of an accomplishment for head coach Jordan Olson.
"The girls played amazing tennis all day," Olson said. "I'm proud of how Riley and Sophie played and how far they have come since last year when they played with each other for the first time."
Schumaker, a sophomore, said she felt that she and Cole were evenly matched with Dong and Kinziger, but that the match came down to which team made the most unforced errors. Regardless of the final results, Schumaker said, "I think that we gave the match everything we had."
"We played our hearts out, and I wouldn't have wanted it to end any other way," senior Cole whose career as an Ellsworth tennis player came to an end with the loss against Rice Lake said. "Without the love and support from family, friends and teammates, we would have never made it this far."
Cole said that playing the last game of her career made her realize how lucky she is to have created so many tennis memories with Schumaker, her coaches and other teammates.
"This season will not be remembered by how we lost; it will be remembered by how much we accomplished."