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Girls Prep Tennis 4.15

Lincoln East No. 1 singles player Bianca Rademacher lunges for a forehand in a dual match against Lincoln Southwest earlier this season.

Bianca Rademacher will feel right at home over the next two days at Koch Family Center in Omaha.

Well, actually, it's about 45 minutes from home. But the site of the Class A girls state tennis tournament will bring together the Rademachers, and nothing brings the extended family together quite like tennis.

"Most of them are planning on being there," said Bianca, a Lincoln East junior who is seeded first at No. 1 singles. "Even my cousins from Kansas City are going to try to make it up, which really means a lot."

Rademacher's grandfather Earl took up tennis while attending Kearney State in the 1950s. As the family grew, so did its love for the sport.

Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. Siblings. They all play, and many at a high level.

Cousins Max Rademacher and Kaleb Strawhecker finished second at No. 1 doubles at last fall's boys state tournament.

For Bianca, her interest in the sport began with her father, Steve, who played collegiately in Kearney. He's been with her every step of the way, the East standout says, from lessons as a 5-year-old to high school tournaments.

That included two years ago when Rademacher, enjoying a breakout freshman season, lost in the quarterfinals at No. 1 singles. The loss stung.

"After my freshman year, my confidence was definitely down the drain," Rademacher said. "I was so disappointed in myself and I really didn't know how to move on from that. (My dad) was very important in helping me turn it around during the summer season. Just making sure that I don't only focus on losing one important match."

Dad's advice focuses around the mental game. More importantly, just have fun.

"He's always emphasized that tennis is supposed to be fun," Rademacher said.

Fun, and plenty of motivation, have led Rademacher to a pair of success-filled seasons. She finished runner-up to four-time state champion and good friend Samantha Mannix at state last year, and her second-place finish helped East wrap up a state team title.

Rademacher enters this year's state tournament as the No. 1-seeded player. She's 29-0.

"After that freshman year, I definitely took a step back and just looked back on how intensely I was focusing on the tennis," Rademacher said. "Last year, I just really focused on making sure I wasn't taking it too seriously and still trying to find the fun in the sport."

A much-improved serving game has elevated Rademacher's game this season. It was her focal point during the offseason and it's led to better positioning for points this spring.

Rademacher isn't the only Spartan looking to make an impact Thursday and Friday. Brooke Sailer (28-1) is the top seed at No. 2 singles, Elly Johnsen and Kristina Le (34-0) are the top seed at No. 2 doubles, and Hailey Haar and Kathy Le (28-6) are seeded second at No. 1 doubles.

East, seeking back-to-back state titles, will be challenged by Lincoln Southeast and others.

Rademacher said the key for her this week is to stay true to her game, stay loose and have fun. Those are lessons she learned during the summer following her state loss as a freshman.

"Learning from my mistakes, learning to move forward from them I think is a really important life lesson that will definitely benefit me in the future," Rademacher said.

The Class A state tournament will start at 9 a.m. Thursday at Koch Family Center. Friday's finals are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

The Class B tournament will start at 8 a.m. Thursday at Woods Tennis Center. Friday's finals are at 1 p.m.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.

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Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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