Janesville Parker's Theisen, Zeilinger connect for success
JANESVILLE If practice does indeed make perfect, Maddie Theisen and Kristin Zeilinger are the poster people.
The Janesville Parker seniors have been playing doubles together in tennis since their freshman year.
The extra court time spent honing their games in the offseason, along with summer camps and lessons at the Four Lakes Athletic Club in Elkhorn, is paying off. Theisen and Zeilinger are unbeaten this season at 18-0.
“I think we both knew what we were capable of coming into our last season playing together,” Theisen said. “Hopefully, we still have a lot of tennis left, but we’re happy with the way the season has gone so far.
“Not that we didn’t work hard before, but I think we worked a little bit harder this past offseason. We want to be as successful as we can this year because it’s our last.”
Zeilinger and Theisen have been Parker’s No. 1 doubles team for four years. Although there were struggles early on, the team has steadily improved each season. The tandem have qualified for the WIAA Division 1 state individual meet the past two seasons, and last season, they led the Vikings to the school’s first state team tournament berth.
Parker coach Justin Long first saw his star-studded duo playing together as seventh graders at Franklin Middle School. He had a hunch they would pan out if they continued to remain a team.
“They’ve really grown together as a team,” Long said. “And if you watch them play, you realize that they’re the same type of player. Both have big first serves and are very good at the net.
“The biggest difference for them now is that they’ve learned how to win the tough three-set matches, and they’re playing with so much confidence.
Theisen and Zeilinger were fourth at No. 1 doubles in the Big Eight Conference tournament a year ago. This season, the duo has not lost a set in conference or nonconference matches and will likely be the No. 1 seed heading in to the conference tournament on Oct. 1.
“I think they would be the first to tell you that they were disappointed in where they finished last year at conference,” Long said of Theisen and Zeilinger. “Let’s just say they’ve set the bar much higher this season.”
Although making it back to state for a third straight year is an obvious goal, Zeilinger said the tandem wouldn’t be content on just making the field. Bringing home a medal is the most important goal.
“If we do make it to state, we know that whatever happens there happens,” Zeilinger said. “But we both know we’re capable of playing better than we did at state the last two years.
“We’ve played well this year against the better (doubles) teams, and we know at state, every team is going to be good.”
Long believes Theisen and Zeilinger will continue to excel as long as they stick to what works.
“They’ve been so good this year because they’ve come out and set the tone right away in every match,” Long said. “You have to come out with the idea of doing that know matter how good the other team is.”
Theisen, the daughter of Rob and Patti, and Kristin, the daughter of Brian and Diana, have been playing together for so long that they don’t need to do a lot of communicating on the court. Their record has done most of the talking this season. Negativity or arguing is not allowed on their side of the court. Only support and a trust in one in another are allowed.
Like their record, that formula has been perfect this season.