LINCOLN — Not knowing if she would even play a single point during her senior year just a few months ago, Scottsbluff’s Maddie Holscher certainly made the most of her final prep tennis season.
And she ended it with a bang competing at the Class B state tennis tournament on Thursday at the Nebraska Tennis Center in Lincoln.
Holscher, who was cleared to play tennis just prior to the start of the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee during the Bearcats’ second to last basketball game in February, posted a pair of state wins before falling in the quarterfinal round of the No. 1 singles tournament.
Seeded seventh, Holscher dominated Hastings freshman Josie Propp 6-2, 6-1 in the first round. She then took part in one of the best matches of her career by rallying from a one-set hole to stun Lincoln Pius X’s Lauren Bruning 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the second round. Holscher then had her run ended in the quarterfinals by Omaha Skutt Catholic freshman Teresa Kaiser, who was seeded second. Kaiser won by scores of 6-0, 6-0 to advance to today’s semifinals.
With her two wins, Holscher became the first Scottsbluff player to reach the quarterfinal round since 2008 when Amanda Henkel made it all the way to the semifinals before finishing fourth.
“Overall, I was pretty pleased,” Holscher said of her finish. “In the first match I thought my strokes were really good. The second match was a tough test. It was pretty exciting and intense. I was happy with how I played. In the third match my opponent was just really good.”
After dropping the opening set of her second-round match against Bruning, Holscher also went down a break in the second set at 4-1. However, the Bearcat senior showcased the gritty determination and competitive spirit that she’s known for to get the match turned around in her favor.
“When I was down 4-1 in the second set I pretty much knew it was now or never at that point,” Holscher said. “I finally started hitting better and my serve was really coming through for me.”
Holscher managed to break Bruning’s serve to send the set into a tiebreaker, which she controlled throughout to prevail 7-4 to even the match. With the momentum squarely on her side of the net, Holscher took command of the third set and cruised the rest of the way.
“That was a good win for me,” she said. “I was ready to push it to a third set, and once I did that I knew I could beat her. The whole atmosphere was just a lot of fun.”
The comeback win wasn’t just exciting and emotional for Holscher, it also proved that way for Scottsbluff coach Cassie Behnke.
“Her match against Lincoln Pius was unbelievable and extremely emotional,” Behnke said. “She completely put everything she had out there. The maturity she’s gained over her four years of playing tennis really showed. It was great. I think that was a huge achievement for her.”
Holscher couldn’t maintain her momentum against Skutt’s Kaiser in the quarterfinals. In her three wins on Thursday, Kaiser didn’t drop a single game.
“She was the best player I’ve faced this year,” Holscher said of Kaiser. “Everything about her game was really good. She was tough.”
Holscher, who will undergo surgery on her knee on June 4, concluded her senior season with a record of 24-11. While her goal was to advance even deeper in the tournament, she was happy with the performance she put together to make it as far as she did.
“My goal was to make it to the second day, but I was just trying to take it one match at a time and try not to get ahead of myself,” Holscher said. “I’m pretty happy with it. I just thank God that I had the opportunity to play and that my knee didn’t keep me from doing that. I feel pretty lucky that I was able to play this whole season. It was a good way to end.”
Behnke and Scottsbluff assistant coach Madeline Burford praised Holscher’s finish.
“Maddie just blew us away this afternoon,” Behnke said. “Coach Burford and I are extremely proud. We’re very, very happy with how things turned out.”
Holscher was the only local player to earn a win Thursday.
Scottsbluff and Alliance were both represented at every position of the state tournament.
Also competing with Holscher in the No. 1 singles bracket was Alliance senior Stephanie Bauer. Bauer lost 6-0, 6-0 to Waverly’s Ashley Tabor in the first round.
At No. 2 singles, Scottsbluff freshman Mikayla Fulk lost 6-0, 6-0 to Beatrice’s Addie Litterick. In another first-round match in the No. 2 singles bracket, Alliance freshman Makylee Kaping lost 6-3, 6-1 to Elkhorn South’s Kathleen Thomas.
The Bearcats and Bulldogs dropped opening-round matches at both doubles positions.
At No. 1 doubles, Scottsbluff sophomores Akacia Kraus and Sarah Poynter dropped a 6-2, 6-0 decision to Gretna’s Stephanie Beyea and Emily Zapotocny. Alliance senior Molly McGhehey and junior Megan Gould lost 6-0, 6-3 to Norris’ Christina Stai and Brianna Petersen.
At the No. 2 doubles position, Alliance senior Tosha Postell and sophomore Arianna Hatterman fell 6-0, 6-0 to top seeded Lauren Camenzind and Bianca Lowe of Omaha Skutt. Also at No. 2 doubles, Scottsbluff sophomores Rachel Madden and Michelle Clark lost 6-0, 6-1 to Holdrege’s Mackenzie Jensen and Bailey Williams.
Despite advancing only one player out of the first round, Behnke lauded the effort of her young Bearcat squad in the state tournament and throughout the season.
“I think it gave them some perspective of where they can be if they continue to work hard,” Behnke said. “You just never know what to expect down here when you haven’t ever watched a lot of these other girls play. You just go in and try to play your best tennis. I think that’s what everybody did.
“It was a rewarding season. Obviously, you’re going to have some frustrations with the rewards. But we felt like it was a successful season for us.”
Entering today’s final few rounds of competition, Omaha Skutt leads the Class B team race with a score of 36. Elkhorn South is second with 34 and Omaha Duchesne Academy is third with 26.
Scottsbluff concluded the tournament with eight points, the Bearcats’ most since 2008.