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UW-La Crosse's Bridget Bellissimo, the Eagles' No. 1 singles player, is 21-2 overall this season, including 6-0 in WIAC play. She recently recorded her 100th career singles victory.

Bridget Bellissimo wants to know exactly where she stands in the ITA Division III women’s tennis rankings.

The UW-La Crosse senior from Middleton, Wis., has never earned a spot in the national tournament, but she’s not far from getting there.

The top seven players ranked in each region qualify for the national tournament starting May 21 in Claremont, Calif., but entering next weekend’s double-dual against Coe College and Grinnell College at Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Bellissimo, the 2017 WIAC Player of the Year, is ranked 10th in singles in the most recent Central Region poll. That is significantly higher than her No. 19 ranking of a year ago.

The Eagles were scheduled to compete Saturday against Northwestern of Minnesota, but that event was canceled due to a snowstorm.

Bellissimo has been the Eagles’ No. 1 singles player most of her career. She won 20 matches at No. 1 singles her freshman year, and won 19 and 26 the next two seasons, respectively. She is 21-2 overall this season, including 6-0 in WIAC play, which has helped UW-L post a 15-3 record (4-2 WIAC).

“(The rankings) are one thing I’ve kept in touch with,” Bellissimo said. “Tennis is so hard to go to nationals every year. We go against some really good competition in conference and in regions, and it’s really a battle every year.”

That competition, along with climbing the rankings, has pushed Bellissimo.

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Hehli

“I think she knows what she needs to do to motivate herself to get to where she wants to be in the rankings,” Eagles coach Bill Hehli said. “Stuff that comes out in the paper, or anywhere else, it’s for anybody to see. We don’t hide that stuff from her.”

Bellissimo started playing tennis before the age of 4, when her sister, Bianca, played. During her middle-school days, Bridget Bellissimo was ranked in the 30’s nationally on the junior circuit.

“She’s held her own,” Hehli said. “As she’s gotten older, she’s gotten used to playing every style of player. I’m confident in her ability every time she goes out.”

Bellissimo, however, was blindsided when she realized that she broke a milestone last weekend.

Bellissimo earned her her 100th career singles win April 7 when she defeated Sydney Verbauwhede of Edgewood, 6-2, 6-0. She has lost just twice this year, and in her career, Bellissimo owns a 100-20 record.

Bellissimo found out about her most recent accolade from UW-L Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations David Johnson.

“To see that (100th win) symbolizes the hard work I have done over the last four years,” Bellissimo said. “I was very impressed when I found out. I was kind of aware of it, but I wasn’t focused on it. I just wanted to play match-by-match.”

She’s close to winning her 100th career doubles match, too. In fact, she and partner Sadie Spahn are three wins away.

The ITA pegs the Bellissimo/Spahn doubles team at the No. 7 spot in the Central Region, according to Thursday’s ranking. The duo is 24-2 overall, having won their last four matches and are 8-2 in their last 10.

Bellissimo admits that while she wasn’t tracking how close she was to reaching 100 wins in singles play, she’s been counting the match wins she’s helped earn in doubles.

“I’m really excited about that,” she said. “It would mean a lot to not only me, but also Sadie. Sadie has so much passion for the sport, and that motivates me.”

“To see that
(100th win) symbolizes the hard work I have done over the last four years.” UW-L’s Bridget Bellissimo
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