The competitive fire has always burned brightly in Mia Bakke.

But it wasn’t until the New Richmond High School senior was able to harness that fire that she could reach her full potential as a tennis player. She has done that now, by winning the last two Middle Border Conference singles championships. And she achieved her ultimate goal this season, qualifying for the WIAA Division 1 Individual State Championships for the first time.

Bakke is the third of her sisters to play tennis for the Tigers, following sisters Emma and Greta. Greta was the Tigers’ top singles player prior to Mia stepping into that role. Between them, they have won the last five No. 1 singles championships in the conference. Mia also joined Greta in becoming a qualifier for the WIAA Division 1 State Singles Championships.

Mia said the sisters have different playing styles and that she’s always looked up to Emma and Greta. When Emma became interested in tennis, all three sisters began taking lessons. Mia said her parents did this despite never having played tennis themselves.

“They’ve gotten really good at watching tennis,” she said with a smile.

The three sisters took lessons, with Mia, as the little sister, also became a U.S. Tennis Association member and has been playing in USTA tournaments ever since.

Bakke worked with a USTA coach in Eau Claire for several years, steadily improving her skills. She had a focus last summer on where she wanted to upgrade her game.

“I definitely worked on putting the ball away, being a more dynamic player and not just a baseliner,” Bakke said.

The progress Bakke wanted to make wasn’t only in the physical aspects of her game. She visited a sports psychologist to start a routine to help her start each point with a fresh focus. After every point, she would walk to the fence behind her end of the court, touching the fence.

“Having that routine limited the distractions,” Bakke said. “That helped he learn about mental toughness. I’m a very intense person on the court. I’m definitely very competitive, whether it’s in school or in tennis.”

Bakke is part of a close-knit group of 18 seniors who were a major part of the Tigers’ success over the past four seasons. When Bakke was named as a special qualifier for the state tournament, so were classmates Katey Eickhoff and Teresa Tenner, the Tigers’ top doubles team.

“It was more fun to see Katey and Teresa make it,” Bakke said. “It was more fun (competing at state) with them.”

Bakke ended her high school career with one of the best matches of career at state, playing quite well against a top-ranked player.

“It was one of my favorite matches and one of my best matches,” Bakke said.

Bakke credited Tiger coach Denise Devereux for her ability to keep each player focused for every match.

“She’s there to nudge you in the right direction and that’s what I needed,” Bakke said. “She’s such a great person. She puts her all into it.”

Devereux said she remembered the early days when Bakke had trouble holding back her emotions.

“She wanted it so bad, she’d have tears, frustrations,” Devereux said. “She learned to change, she worked a lot at the mental aspects of the game. She’s worked really hard for what she’s gotten.”

The two older Bakke sisters attended UW-Madison and Mia said that’s one of the schools she’s considering. If she goes there, she could team again with Greta, who is playing club tennis at the university level.