Verona senior Meredith Conley closed out her illustrious prep career with a run to the No. 1 singles Round of 16 at the Division 1 state tournament.

Whitnall junior Autumn Bruno defeated Conley 7-5, 6-1 in the Round of 16 on Friday, Oct. 18, at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison. Conley finished the season 26-4. It’s the furthest Conley, a four-time state qualifier, advanced at state.

Bruno (24-3) went on to finish sixth at state. Verona coach Mark Happel was excited to see Conley make it to the second day of competition.

“Meredith played great tennis, but just came up on the short end,” Happel said. “The other girl just played phenomenal. She (Bruno) hits with a lot of pace, has all the shots, a great serve and ground strokes. Meredith did what she wanted to do. The Whitnall girl had an answer. There is a better player out there sometimes.”

By making it the Round of 16, Conley earned all-state honors by making it to the Round of 16.

Former Verona players Kayla Johnson (2018 graduate) and Claire Johnson (2019 graduate) came back from Colorado and Allison Blessing (2019 graduate) came back from Marquette to watch Conley and the Wildcats’ No. 1 doubles team at state.

“To me, that’s what it’s all about rather than winning or losing,” Happel said. “It speaks volumes of their character and what they think about our current players. That just tells you the kind of kids we have.”

During crucial moments in her second-round match, Conley relied on her powerful backhand.

She also picked opportune times to attack the net and put away winners in a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Beaver Dam senior Morgan Nelson.

Nelson struggled with her serve in the first set, and was content to hit forehands from the baseline instead of attacking the net.

“She was missing more of her backhands, which is normally one of her strong suits,” Conley said of Nelson. “I was just trying to hit to the backhand over and over again. Her backhand kind of came back in the second set, and it was a matter of who was going to miss first.”

Happel said Conley did a great job of hitting the ball with pace.

“Meredith did a great job of attacking short balls and putting volleys away,” Happel said. “She’s such a smart tennis player.”

In the second set, Conley jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the second set, but lost two straight games to fall behind.

“I just buckled down and knew I needed to keep the ball in play,” she said. “It was just a matter of executing.”

Conley rebounded to win the next two games to take a lead she would not relinquish.

Conley breezed by Whitefish Bay junior Olivia Eckes 6-3, 6-1 in the first round.

“I just wanted to keep moving my feet and let the point play out,” she said. “I didn’t want to let myself get lazy with my feet.”

Verona’s No. 1 doubles team of seniors Sydney Breitbach and Kasie Keyes (18-15) were special qualifiers at state, but lost to Oconomowoc’s Sarah Kopfer and Aubrey Berther 6-1, 6-1 in the first round.

“They had a tough draw,” Happel said of Breitbach and Keyes. “They played well but played a super-talented team. They (Kopfer and Berther) really hit the ball hard and accurate and anticipated well. We were just outmatched a little bit. We had a lot of opportunities and game points. We just couldn’t finish them.”