Up to challenge: Starck eyes third straight title
How would the senior dominator do given an opportunity against Division 1 competition?
"That's a great question," Big Foot/Williams Bay coach Jim Karedes said. "When I schedule our 14 meets, I'm scheduling against the toughest schools in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan.
"Caroline is playing a lot of Division 1 level players. She's done pretty well for herself."
"It would be really fun to play in Division 1," said Starck, who attends school at Williams Bay but plays tennis for the Chiefs as part of a co-op team. "It would be tough. It would be a challenge."
Winning a state title in any WIAA sport doesn't come without dedication, practice and talent. To do it in the style displayed by Starck the previous two seasons is exceptional.
Starck, seeking a third straight title, will take a 134-6 career record into the University of Wisconsin's Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison for this week's state meet.
With a first-round bye for the fourth straight year—Starck finished third as a freshman in 2005—her title defense won't officially begin UNtil 11:30 a.m. Friday when she meets the winner of the opening-round match between Eau Claire Regis' Annie Lindsey (19-3) and University School of Milwaukee's Sarah Wiener (4-3).
Starck says the state tournament loss in 2005 has served as a motivating tool for the last three seasons.
"That loss still bothers me," she said. "It taught me a lesson. It made me want (a state title) more the next year."
Just how big is the gap between Starck and the rest of the Division 2 field? Ganser (24-3)—also making her fourth straight trip—goes into the 2008 state meet seeded No. 2, but she was a 6-0, 6-0 loser to Starck in the Whitewater sectional final.
If Starck, as expected, earns her three-peat, she will become just the sixth player in the history of the WIAA state meet to win three or more career titles. Neenah's Tami Whitlinger won four titles from 1983-86, while her sister, Teri, teamed up with three different partners to win doubles titles during the same span.
A pair of four-time champions ruled the state during the same four years as Cedarburg's Caitlin Burke (Division 1) and Greendale's Kaylan Caiati (Division 2) held a stranglehold on their respective divisions from 1999-2002.
Menasha St. Mary's Tess Reddin won three straight Division 2 singles titles from 2003-2005. Reddin was the state champion when Starck was a freshman. The two were on opposite sides of the bracket and never had a chance to play each other in the state meet.
Starck's success is drawing attention from Division I colleges and universities. She recently took an official visit to Murray State in Kentucky and has visits lined up with Texas Tech and Minnesota.
The 5-foot-9 Starck, 67-1 during the last two seasons, last tasted defeat early in the 2007 season when she lost 10-8 in a third-set tiebreaker to a two-time state champion from Minnesota.
"Caroline's work ethic sets her apart," Karedes said. "There's not a day she walks onto the court and says ‘I'm going to take it easy today.' She works on getting everybody on the team better. She's a leader."
Despite being an overwhelming favorite to win a state title, Starck refuses to look beyond her opening-round match.
"I have the same mentality with every match," Starck said. "I think anything could happen. I always look at the draw the same. I'm not looking ahead. My goal is to win. I don't have any predictions."
Starck, however, is shocked by how quickly her high school career has gone, even though she still will have a chance to play in a fourth straight state team tournament with the Chiefs next week.
"I haven't taken the time to look back," she said. "I can't believe it's my last year."
The rest of the state's Division 2 tennis players probably would be more than happy to throw a going-away party.
Caroline Starck's career numbers and state tournament numbers are staggering:
-- In four years she has posted records of 31-2, 36-3, 35-1 and 32-0.
-- As a freshman, Starck—seeded No. 9—suffered her only state tournament loss, falling in the semifinals to the Racine Prairie's Kari Kastenholz, the No. 2 seed and eventual Division 2 runner-up.
-- In the 2006 state meet, she rolled to the title by winning her four matches in straight sets and losing just 18 games.
-- In the 2007 state meet, she earned a second championship by sweeping four matches in straight sets and losing just 12 games. She lost just six games combined in the quarterfinals, semifinals and title match, ultimately defeating Jefferson's Beth Ganser, 6-1, 6-0, for the championship.
-- Her overall state tournament record is 10-1.
JUST THE FACTS
What: 2008 WIAA Division 1 and 2 girls individual state tennis tournament.
Where: Nielsen Tennis Stadium, Madison.
When: Thursday—First round singles and doubles, 2 p.m. Friday—Singles and doubles through quarterfinals, 8:30 a.m. Saturday—Consolation semifinals, 8:30 a.m.; Championship semifinals, 9 a.m., followed by finals.
Tickets: $6, students and adults; available at the door.
Area qualifiers: Division 1 singles—Bryanne Blanton, Elkhorn, 15-6; Leah Dahl, Fort Atkinson, 24-1; Division 1 doubles—Irene Bauman and Kim Hanson, Elkhorn, 21-2; Lizzie Malzfeldt and Katelyn Ludeking, Milton, 18-3.
Division 2 singles—Caroline Starck, Walworth Big Foot/Williams Bay, 32-0; Julie Kolnik, Big Foot/Williams Bay, 26-3; Beth Ganser, Jefferson, 24-3. Division 2 doubles—Brianna Larson and Sabrina Bowey, Whitewater, 14-10; Maggie Lauterbach and Taylor Lauzon, Big Foot/Williams Bay, 15-14; Anne Rhode and Paige Klumb, East Troy, 26-2.