Viroqua’s Hunter Stilwell has come a long way in a very short period of time as a VHS varsity tennis player. The 6-foot 4-inch senior, who did not start playing the sport until his sophomore year, was the only Blackhawk netter to advance to the WIAA Division 2 sectional last week.
The Hawks’ No. 1 singles player picked up his team high 11th win of the year, Monday, May 22, with a thrilling 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 come-from-behind victory over Matt Herro of La Crosse Aquinas in the WIAA sub-sectional meet hosted by Sauk Prairie High School. What made the win even more impressive and proof of Stilwell’s improvement, was that he had lost a 5-7, 5-7 decision to Herro on April 18.
Stilwell then advanced to compete at the WIAA sectional, Wednesday, May 24, hosted by Madison Edgewood and played at The Nielson Tennis Stadium in Madison, where he dropped a 3-6, 2-6 battle to three-time-state qualifier Marcus Bourget of Eau Claire Regis in the first round.
“This was a very tough draw for Hunter, he played very well,” said Viroqua coach Layne Hanson.
“I was very proud of Hunter’s season and he should be as well. He has really developed as a tennis player, and when you consider he didn’t start playing the sport until his sophomore season, the things he has accomplished this year are remarkable.
“The win over Herro was great after having lost to him earlier in the year, so to come back and beat him for the trip to the sectionals was exciting.”
In other action at the sub-sectionals, Viroqua’s Collin Hanson lost his No. 2 singles match 1-6, 0-6 to Mark Gracek of Black River Falls, James Hopkins lost at No. 3 singles 0-6, 0-6 to Aquinas’ Nick Johnson and Oscar Engh dropped his No. 4 singles match 0-6, 1-6 to Ethan Eide of Sparta.
In doubles play, the VHS No. 1 team of Tanner Wileman and Luckas Bentzler were defeated in straight sets 0-6, 0-6 by Ryan Scheidt and Connor Roop of Aquinas and were eliminated with the first round loss.
Meanwhile, the freshman duo of Mitchell Hanson and Jared Anderson advanced with a 7-5, 6-3 first round win over Caleb Laufenberg and Mitchell Iverson of BRF, before being eliminated in round two with a 0-6, 0-6 loss in their No. 2 doubles match to Kurtis Thelen and Bryce Kessel of Madison Edgewood.
In a similar scenario, Connor Anderson and Garrit Rodriguez, also won their first round match at No. 3 doubles, 6-0, 6-2 over BRF’s Sam Lund and Jared Laufenberg, before dropping a 1-6, 1-6 decision to Hunter Stracka and Peter Sviatoslavsky of Edgewood in the round two elimination match.
The Blackhawks picked up three team wins this season, a step in the right direction when compared to their win-less 2016 campaign.