Chart toppers: Girls' tennis storylines, courtesy Fred Kroner
Madie Baillon, St. Thomas More
The senior is no stranger to the area scene. She was the Area Player of the Year as a sophomore and a junior and was ranked 30th in the Midwest in 2011 in the girls' 16-and-under division. She isn't resting on her laurels. In her first four dual meets this season, Baillon not only won each time in straight sets but she also did so by losing one total game. Baillon and senior Alyssa Vodacek are unbeaten at No. 1 doubles in dual meets. Baillon plans on making three college visits before picking a school, but she plans on majoring in education. Her focus since last year, when she compiled a 22-3 record, is "working on my strength and endurance to be able to take my tennis game to the college level," she said. Baillon and Jiwon Yoon (who is injured) are the only Sabers who've been with the tennis program all four years of its existence.
Allison Hansen, Centennial
The University of Iowa watched Hansen (among others) play in the Chargers' recent tournament at Lindsay Courts. Centennial coach Connie Hoagland sees overall improvement for the senior and the team's No. 1 singles player (3-0 in duals). "Allison has improved her game both physically and mentally from last year," Hoagland said. "She is more patient during points, taking her opportunities to go from defense to offense quickly. She is trying to dictate the point more and staying positive during tense moments in matches. I believe Allison will continue to get better as she gets physically stronger and has to practice, in college, against players of her caliber or higher every single day." The Chargers have another player with promise, freshman Lauren Neitzel (3-0 in duals at No. 2 singles). "She has a lot of natural ability, and her work ethic is wonderful," Hoagland said. "She has been working in the Advanced Tennis School at Atkins Tennis Center with Allison over the summer."
Danville's doubles duos
The Vikings' No. 1 duo features sisters who advanced to state a year ago: current sophomore Becca Lewis and current junior Rachael Lewis. Coach Mark Bacys said they are dealing with the target on their backs. "Early on this year, the expectations have been raised for them, and they are learning to play being one of the teams to beat," Bacys said. "The great thing about them this year so far is seeing how they have responded after their two losses. They played their best match against O'Fallon after losing to Belleville West. We are trying to get Rachael to be more aggressive at the net and finish points. Becca's strength is her serve, and we are working to improve that, which will let them win easy points from her serve or is setting Rachael up." Danville has a talented No. 2 doubles team of Amy Shah and Neha Patel, who are 4-1. "I knew they would be a solid team, but I did not know they would be this good this early for just starting to play together," Bacys said.
Central's rebuilding job
The Maroons have work to do. Ten of last year's top 20 players graduated, yet head coach Gary Day has a larger roster this fall (21). "Though we have new players actually giving us a larger team, we are very inexperienced and much younger," Day said. "Coach Davis and I try to instill a sports ethic of being magnanimous in victory and humble in defeat. We may have an opportunity to work more on the latter until we get more matches under our belt. We're still sorting out who's who in singles and doubles, and in abilities in general. Shivani Jain has shown growing prowess as a doubles player, and new players who seem eager to climb the ranking ladder are (sophomore) Maddy Chalifoux (an All-Area soccer player), (junior) Anissa Hill and (freshman) Brenda Gonzalez. But all our players compete hard every day, have excellent attitudes and show marked improvement on a daily basis." Jain is one of Central's five seniors. The coaches are working with six juniors, seven sophomores and three freshmen.