Mikayla Wheeler and Shannon Gibbons

Stoughton's Mikayla Wheeler (left) and Shannon Gibbons advanced to the WIAA Division 1 state meet at the Badger sectional on Wednesday, Oct. 6, in Lake Geneva. Gibbons started the season off as a singles' player, but was paired up with Wheeler during an early-season tournament.

Shannon Gibbons and Mikayla Wheeler started on different paths this tennis season.

Gibbons was playing singles, while Wheeler was competing in doubles.

But a last-minute decision before an early-season tournament put the pair on the same path.

“Heading into the season Shannon was not a doubles player, she was our No. 2 singles player,” Stoughton head coach Jason Model said. “After our first tournament in Edgerton, a couple of the kids were thinking and talking about maybe trying Shannon and Mikayla as a doubles team. They played really well together there and it kind of continued on.”

The Stoughton duo may have started on different paths, but they have reached the same destination, together. The pair will play at the WIAA Division 1 state individual girls tennis tournament starting on Thursday, Oct. 14.

“We were both really excited to play with each other and I think that helped the chemistry,” Wheeler said. “It was a last-minute decision to play together in the first tournament and we played really well that first

match which I think set up the rest of the season.”

The Viking pair won a three-set No. 1 doubles match against Janesville Parker’s Annie Barnes and Lucy Barnes at Stoughton’s sectional to advance to the state tournament, which will be played Thursday, Oct. 14 to Saturday, Oct. 16 at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison.

“I remember laughing after winning because of the excitement and surprise of winning,” Gibbons said. “I knew we could win, but when the match went into a third set it became really nerve wracking. I had to stay calm and forget about worrying about losing. We had to focus on each individual point.”

Gibbons and Wheeler did just that.

“I remember feeling as if all I have worked for the past four years of tennis paid off,” Wheeler said. “I wanted to make coach (Amy) Khal and coach Model proud and not disappoint anyone. After winning, I felt like I finally accomplished the one goal I had for my high school tennis career.”

The pair will be Stoughton’s first doubles representatives at the state tournament since Stacy Benoy and Ashley Fisher made it as partners in 2017. Gibbons and Wheeler — who hold an 8-6 record on the season — are set to take on Stevens Points’ Abby Erwin and Tatum Thielman in an opening-round state matchup on Thursday, Oct. 14 at 12:45 p.m.

So how did the Stoughton pair click so quickly?

Both credited some of the success to each other’s previous tennis background.

“Before doubles Shannon was a singles player resulting in her amazing, consistent groundstrokes,” Wheeler said. “She also loves coming to the net which makes for an amazing doubles partner. I am a less consistent groundstroker as a doubles player, but can be aggressive at the net with Shannon.”

“I was a singles player originally and Mikayla has always been a doubles player so we work well because I am comfortable playing on the baseline and Mikayla has amazing volleys,” Gibbons said.

Model said both Gibbons and Wheeler are both super positive, competitive winners.

“They really communicate very well, they do a great job of that,” Model said. “They do a good job of assessing what’s working during a match.”

Gibbons and Wheeler may have started on different paths, but they will end on the same one.

“I’m really excited to get to play at Nielsen against some of the best players in the state,” Gibbons said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge and representing Stoughton High School, all of my teammates from this year and especially our coaches, coach Kahl and coach Model.”

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