Franklin senior tennis player Abby Lehman said she essentially grew up with a racquet in her hand.
And so did her sophomore sister, Katie.
"She likes to hit a lot of angles, and I sort of like to overpower people from the baseline," said Abby with a laugh. "She's more finesse, and I'm more power. We tend to warm up together (before matches), so it can get a little interesting."
It'll get a little more interesting this week as the pair lead a school-record quartet of Sabers into the WIAA state tennis tournament. Abby Lehman and the Franklin first doubles team of Whitney Dohr and Annika Bartelt earned their berths in the sectional held at Greenfield on Oct. 5. Katie Lehman had to wait a little longer (until the seeding meeting in Stevens Point was completed on Oct. 7), and she was granted a special qualifier spot in the singles bracket.
She is believed to be the first Franklin girls player to earn a special qualifier spot, a sign of great respect for the program.
"That's very important," Abby said. "That means she had to beat people who were already in the state field to get here."
All three entries will take part in state competition Thursday, Oct. 13, at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison.
Coach John Brandes, who has coached the Lehmans since they were coming up as little kids through the programs at the Village Club, is pleased to be taking such a large group to state.
"I am extremely excited to have four members of our varsity team competing at state," he said. "This is the largest number of players we are sending to the tournament in our program's history for an individual season. I have to compliment the entire team for their level of commitment to tennis, as it has brought our program many successful accomplishments over the past few years."
Abby Lehman (20-8 on the season) will play Green Bay Southwest's Mei Fredeen (17-13) in an 11:45 a.m. first-round match Oct. 13, while Katie (22-5) will challenge Homestead freshman Natalie Yang (34-1) at noon. Dohr and Bartelt (20-8) will take on West Bend East's Melina Schaetz and Anne Rieke (18-7) at 1 p.m. Oct. 13. If they win, they will play second-round matches in the morning on Friday, Oct. 14. The finals will be held Saturday, Oct. 15.
A fun year
Abby Lehman said the large number of qualifiers continues what has already been a strong social bonding aspect to the team.
"It has been a fun year that way," she said. "My sister brought some of her friends onto the team this fall, and that's helped me get to know more people and make some new friends."
The state-qualifying efforts also continued a strong postseason run for the Sabers, who dominated the South Milwaukee subsectional earlier last week, advancing all seven of their individual entries to the Greenfield sectional. They scored 36 points at the sectional to finish third in the 16-team field behind second-ranked Nicolet (49) and fifth-ranked Whitefish Bay (41).
*I am very proud of the entire Franklin varsity team for qualifying for the sectional," Brandes said. "Every team strives to have everyone qualify for the sectional tournament in hopes of being in contention for the sectional title. Nicolet and Whitefish Bay are two highly-ranked teams in the state, and I was very pleased with how our girls were able to compete with them from start to finish."
That they did.
Strong at sectional
The sectional tournament was especially important for Abby Lehman. A tough draw knocked her out in the quarterfinals of the Southeast Conference tournament the week before, as the Sabers finished second to Kenosha Tremper. She said she was motivated to play well at the sectional, and she did, winning her first-round match to qualify for state for the second time before eventually taking third with a win over a Bay opponent.
Dohr and Bartelt earned their berth with a fourth-place finish after also winning their quarterfinal match.
Katie Lehman made the finals of the second flight of singles, losing to a tough Nicolet opponent in the final.
A major highlight of the tournament for the Sabers was sophomore Alexa Moran (25-3) winning the third singles flight after beating a Muskego opponent in the final.
Other sectional competitors for the Sabers included freshman Vanessa Peterson at fourth singles (19-7) finishing fourth; senior captains Cassie Moran and Sophia Gumina (18-9) taking fourth at second doubles; and the sophomore third doubles team of Kaitlyn Burns and Morgan Peters (20-4) earning third.
Brandes was pleased with all the efforts, noting the team won many contested matches in both subsectional and sectional play.
Abby Lehman is thrilled her career is finishing this way.
"It's exciting to have so many (at state)," she said. "It's brings more support to the program and brings more fans out. It's a lot more fun when its not just me. This is fun; I began with John (Brandes) as a coach at Village Club, and here I'm ending with him at state."