Danville among area's best girls' tennis teams
The Vikings won sectional team titles each of the last two years for coach Mark Bacys. Three of this year’s squad members are underclassmen seeking their third consecutive appearance at state. Sisters Rachael (senior) and Rebecca Lewis (junior) have gone as partners in doubles for two consecutive years.
Amy Shah (senior) is also a two-time doubles qualifier. She is back with Neha Patel (senior) for the second consecutive year. “Our roster is at 20, and it is the largest we’ve had in years,” Bacys said. One team goal, he said, is to win a fourth Big 12 Conference title in a row.
Junior Taylor Ellis, who has been playing No. 4 singles, was a state qualifier in 2012 in singles. Also in the singles lineup are junior Amanda Vadeboncoeur and senior Katie Koebrich. “They have done very well,” Bacys said.
The team’s strength was shown in Edwardsville’s 32-school tournament, a dual-team event in which the Vikings placed third. The lone loss was to Missouri’s state championship team from 2012. In doubles, the Lewises were first at the Mattoon Invitational, beating opponents who were top-20 state finishers last fall. Shah and Patel were triumphant at the Centennial Invitational, topping representatives from Homewood-Flossmoor.
A year ago, the Chargers sent both of their singles entries and both doubles teams to state. Three of those six players have graduated.
“We would like to see several of our girls get to state again or for the first time,” Chargers coach Teri Scaggs said. “We have big shoes to fill.”
The top returnee is sophomore Lauren Neitzel, who was the sectional runner-up last fall in singles. She now is playing No. 1 singles. Junior Sophie Kim, the No. 4 singles player, made it to state a year ago in doubles. Junior Teresa Boerma, a transfer from Michigan, is playing at the No. 2 position. Freshman twins Willa and Gressa Olson — whose primary sport is soccer — have worked their way into the lineup at No. 3 and No. 5, respectively.
“They have made a huge contribution to our varsity lineup,” Scaggs said.
Sophomore Jacklyn Gunn has been playing at No. 6. Scaggs has a turnout of 21 players, more than double what the program had in 2012.
“We have a pretty solid team, from top to bottom,” Scaggs said. “We are not only trying to give them tennis advice but we are also trying to teach them life lessons that happen to apply to the game of tennis. Our goal is to be competitive but also to have fun with this lifetime sport.”
Coach Gary Day believes his Maroons could be one of the area’s most improved teams. “From our hitting sessions this summer and improvement we saw, along with some new players coming on board, we told the team and parents we saw our Phoenix rising,” Day said.
“I think this is being shown true, but it’s a long way up and we have far to go.” Five varsity players return: senior Renata Smith, junior Maddy Chalifoux, senior Rose Whitsitt, senior Clare Stanhope and junior Imani Maatuka. Smith, Chalifoux and Whitsitt have been the Maroons’ top three singles players.
Central has 24 squad members, an increase of three from last season. In all, eight squad members have played among the top six. Besides the returnees, others who’ve made an impact are sophomores Brenda Gonzalez and Kelly Wright. Gonzalez played a year ago, but Wright did not.
“They’ve added some real firepower to our lineup,” Day said.
Junior Anissa Hill is another who has worked her way into the lineup. Day said those outside of the top eight have played a role in the team’s overall improvement, praising “their dedication to practicing hard but without the reward of playing the varsity matches,” he said.
The Bulldogs aren’t yet an official team, but they’ve competed in regular season tournaments — including a runner-up finish in the eight-team Herrin Invitational — and again will enter the sectional.
Junior Sara Rice (5-2 record at No. 1 singles) and sophomore Anna Lundquist (No. 2 singles) are likely to be in those positions for the postseason. “The other six players are strong in doubles, so getting the right combination will be the key,” M-S coach Eric Schacht said. Earlier in the year, Schacht was the USTA Volunteer of the Year for starting the M-S program.
“The future is bright as we have six or seven younger kids (fifth through eighth grade) who practice with us outside of the high school season,” Schacht said.
Junior Maddie Schacht and senior Emily Sproat teamed up for a fourth-place finish in doubles at Herrin. Freshman Kelly Maloney and sophomore Adrienne Schaumann were the other doubles entry at the tournament. Other squad members seeking lineup spots are senior Colleen Sheehy and sophomore Amy VanWingerden.
“I think we have a real chance at sending players to state this year for the first time,” Schacht said. “This year we will be graduating the first class of girls who were part of the start of our program five years ago.”
St. Thomas More
The Sabers’ 10-player roster features seven seniors and three sophomores. The top returnees, senior Abby Demlow and sophomore Maddie King, are the top two singles players and also form the No. 1 doubles team for the 5-year-old program.
“We have a number of new players who are seniors, so we don’t have a young team, but the newcomers don’t have much experience,” STM coach Jim Tressler said. “They are a hardworking team with lots of enthusiasm, so it has been great coaching them.”
STM’s dual-meet record includes wins against Bloomington, Paris and Urbana as well as a 5-4 loss to Central. Meredith Thomas, Ellen Sobeski, Lauren To and Lizzy Franey are others in the team’s top six.
The Warriors’ 15-member team features junior veterans in the top two singles spots, Abby Fischer and Anne Johnson. Watseka won four of its first five dual meets. Senior Cheyenne Denoyer is also in the top six along with Haley Loeffler, Grace Pavlak and Samantha Hodolitz.
“My expectations for the ladies this year is to be intentional with everything we do on those courts,” coach Olivia Harms said. “This is actually our theme for the season. We want to be intentional in our form, our communication and our basic actions on the court. In having this expectation of the ladies, my expectation is that we will learn from each match we play, have productive practices and play our hearts out no matter who we face.”