Ex-Saber Baillon transfers to UI

Ex-Saber Baillon transfers to UI

NORMAL — If she had the chance to do it all over again, Madie Baillon wouldn’t change anything.

After graduating from St. Thomas More, the former two-time Area Tennis Player of the Year would still start her collegiate career at Illinois State University.

“I kind of considered (Illinois), but I wanted to be a little away from home,” Baillon said.

Now, she knows better.

After finishing her last two final exams as a freshman at ISU on Tuesday, Baillon returned home.

Not just for the summer. For good.

She will join the UI women’s tennis team as a walk-on in the fall.

“I missed being with my family,” she said. “Me and my family are very close, moreso than a lot of other families. I would be on the phone with them, telling them what happened during the day.”

The importance of family in her life hit home during winter break.

“It got harder and harder for me to leave and come back to school,” Baillon said.

Baillon will have three years of eligibility remaining. She received her release from ISU and will be immediately eligible to compete for the Illini.

During her year at ISU, Baillon was the Missouri Valley Conference No. 6 singles champion. She was undefeated during the spring portion of the Redbirds’ season and earned all-conference honors with senior Phyllis Tigges in doubles at the No. 1 position.

“Madie gained a lot of match experience last year at ISU and understands the demands of a collegiate schedule,” UI coach Michelle Dasso said. “Her doubles skills and results were extremely impressive and we are excited to welcome her back home to the Illini family.”

Overall, Baillon was 19-9 in singles and was second on ISU in wins.

In doubles at ISU, she ended 24-10, playing with four different partners.

She is looking forward to returning to what she calls her second home.

“Growing up, I was constantly over there (at the Atkins Tennis Center),” Baillon said. “I played there. I worked there. My high school coach, Jim Tressler, is the director over there. It’s like a home to me.”

She doesn’t regret being a Redbird for a year.

“I have learned a lot being here,” she said. “I would do the same thing. I got a lot of great experiences playing I probably wouldn’t have at the UI, but I’m excited to see where this takes me. Given the opportunity to play for Michelle, I couldn’t pass it up. I hope I fit in quite well.

“A couple girls have already texted me and are excited having me on the team.”

Baillon is a liberal arts major, with an emphasis in communications.

Jade Hilton of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and Grace Tapak, of Hinsdale, join Baillon as new additions to the UI women’s tennis program.