When Dave Himm was hired as the girls golf coach at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, Athletic Director Peggy Seegers-Braun gave him a tour of the school.
When they stopped in the gymnasium, Himm looked around at all the state championship banners hanging on the wall.
“She said that golf never had one, then she pointed to one empty spot on the wall and said that would be a good place for the first,” Himm said.
On Oct. 10, Himm’s Dashers squad completed their mission to fill that blank space, edging Waunakee by two strokes to win the school’s first state championship at University Ridge Golf Course in Verona.
That was part of an impressive fall season by DSHA, which won four state championships (girls golf, volleyball, rugby and tennis doubles), had a runner-up (field hockey) and sent individuals to state in cross country and swimming and diving. All seven of the school’s programs were represented at the state tournaments.
While individually, those teams have had success at one point or another, Seegers-Braun said she can’t remember a season when it all came together for every program in her department at the same time.
“I think DSHA has always been blessed with great student-athletes, and we have a great coaching staff who are able to form meaningful relationships and get the best out of our student-athletes,” Seegers-Braun said. “You can have talented athletes, but unless they are willing to play together and for each other, have everyone on the team embrace their role, and all pull in the same direction, you may not experience the success they are capable of. We have been working really hard the last few years on the concept of ‘great teams have great teammates’ and what that looks like, as well as ‘Success is a Choice,’ and we are choosing to be successful in all the things that lead to success.”
Girls Golf: Breaking through
In just his second season, Himm took a team that had finished sixth of seven teams in the Greater Metro Conference in 2021 and brought th
After the first day of the state tournament, DSHA and Waunakee were tied for second place at 325 strokes, one stroke behind Westosha Central.
Ava Roesch, who led the Dashers with a two-day total of 76-75—151, finished birdie-par-birdie, going 2-under par for the final three holes.
Rounding out DSHA’s lineup were Zoe Gryniewicz (79-80—159), Kate Krueger (82-80—162), Hannah Strachota (88-81—169) and Emma Bruckman (103-96—199).
“It’s still like a dream,” Himm said. “It’s a fantastic feeling. I told the girls afterwards that they will forever be linked together because of that.”
In 2022, the Dashers had made it to state, but Himm said he thought they were happy to be there after being the first DSHA team to qualify in 11 years.
“We have a group of fantastic girls, and they are incredibly talented,” Himm said. “They work very hard, and they were hungry for more than just being second and getting to state.”
Volleyball: Twice as nice
The volleyball team from Divine Savior Holy Angels High School defeated Oconomowoc in five sets to win its second consecutive state championship. (Submitted photo)
In the state championship match against Oconomowoc, the Dashers found themselves trailing two sets to one, their hopes of repeating as state champions hanging by a thread.
DSHA took the fourth set and opened up a nice cushion early in the fifth set to claim their second consecutive, defeating the Raccoons 25-14, 20-25, 25-27, 25-22, 15-8. The win left the Dashers with a 48-1 mark for the season, including four wins over Oconomowoc for the year.
“We were able to learn their tendencies and recall strengths of their players to help us prepare for playing them in the state finals,” DSHA Coac
h Caitie Ratkowski said.
The only loss came to Mother McAuley of Chicago, which has won the last two state titles in Illinois, at the Asics Challenge Tournament in Chicago. The Dashers did bounce back in that event to beat eventual Kentucky state champions Assumption in two straight sets.
“I would say our strength was in our experience,” Ratkowski said. “We returned 10 players to our roster from the 2022 state championship team, and seven seniors that led the team this year. We had our strong core of Sophia Wendlick, Madison Quest, Jordan Czajkowski and Olivia Durst return as our starters, and they were our impact players in last year’s state tournament. To have that core of on-court players return, in addition to the experienced senior class returning, that combined for our team’s strength this season.”
Wendlick, a senior who will play at Creighton University next season, was named first-team all-state along with juniors Quest and Czajkowski. Durst, a junior, was second-team all-state.
Quest has committed to play at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Czajkowski at Belmont University and Durst at Michigan State. But first, those three will be looking for a third straight championship in 2024.
Girls Tennis: Complete domination
When senior Molly Jex and sophomore Lizzie Stuckslager won the WIAA Division 1 Girls Tennis doubles championship in 2022, they made
Molly Jex (left) and Lizzie Stuckslager have some fun after rolling to their second straight state doubles championship. (Submitted photo)
em to the top of the mountain.
it clear they wanted to come back and defend their crown.
At the time, DSHA Coach Melissa Gebhardt said she would have to wait and figure out what was best for the team.
In the end, Jex and Stuckslager easily defended their title, going 22-0, dominating the state tournament and winning the championship match in just 47 minutes, defeating Middleton 6-1, 6-2. In five matches, they lost a total of seven games and had two 6-0, 6-0 victories.
The closest they came all season to losing a set was a 7-6, 6-0 dual meet victory over Brookfield East.
“Lizzie and Molly handled the pressure of being the No. 1 seed and defending their title like the two champions they are,” Gebhardt said. “They went into the tournament confident, and took the experience and knowledge they gained from 2022 and carried it with them into 2023. They were focused and had the ‘eye on the prize.’ They played their game and never let down, and with each round became more and more confident, and raised their level of play so they could achieve their goal of becoming back-to-back state champions.”
Jex, who is looking to play hockey in college, was invited to play in the Junior Admirals program this fall, allowing Stuckslager to occasionally work on her singles game, which is where she might end up playing the next two seasons.
Rugby: Stingy defense
DSHA defeated Catholic Memorial, 38-7, in the championship game to win its second rugby state title in a row. (Submitted photo)
It wasn’t until the state championship that DSHA’s rugby team even allowed a point. However, it wasn’t enough to derail the Dashers’ pursuit of their second consecutive title or 20th in program history, defeating Catholic Memorial 38-7 to finish undefeated at 6-0.
“We have traditionally played good defense; it’s part of our success,” Coach John Klein said. “Our success comes down to our fitness, our hard work, just the way we go about conducting our business on a daily basis.”
The Dashers had a group of eight seniors who were in their third year as starters and another who was in her second.
“The key to our success was our family atmosphere and the experience of our seniors,” Klein said. “We were ready to go right from the start.”
The group’s success may continue in the future, if Klein has assessed his underclassmen correctly, noting he also has a strong corps of sophomores and juniors ready to pick up the torch.
“It’s not the first time we’ve had to regroup, and we don’t typically allow ourselves to have a down year,” he said. “The expectation is always to be the best that we can be as a team, and hopefully that’s good enough to reach incredible goals.”
The Dashers’ field hockey team lost to Arrowhead 3-2 in the state championship match Oct. 21 to finish the season 9-1-1. DSHA had allowed just six goals all season heading into the state tournament, including a 4-3 overtime win over Arrowhead late in the regular season.
In the state cross country meet, sophomore Ava Johnsen finished 23rd with a time of 19:17 over 5 kilometers.
In the swimming and diving state meet, sophomore Kendall Rummel finished sixth in 1-meter diving and senior teammate Allison Brennan was one spot behind. The Dashers’ 200 medley relay team of freshman Jane Johnson, senior Lauren Correa, senior Rose Kachelski and sophomore Maggie Brzezinski was 15th. Johnson finished 19th in the 200 freestyle, 15th in the 500 freestyle. Correa was 15th in the 100 breaststroke. In the 200 freestyle relay, the team of Correa, freshman Katie Dean, Johnson and Brzezinski was 17th.
Sometimes all of that success has a snowball effect.
“I also believe that success breeds success and when teams are successful it helps other teams believe they can be successful as well,” Seegers-Braun said. “It is part of our culture and is one of our core values to strive for athletic excellence. I believe we achieved athletic excellence this fall.”