The most successful girls’ athletic program in Danville history has added to its treasure chest.
Last week’s sectional title in tennis was the 19th in that girls’ sport and marked the third in a row for coach Mark Bacys’ program. It was the second consecutive year that the Vikings advanced both singles and both doubles entries to state.
The state meet starts today in suburban Chicago.
“This year’s team has lived up to and even exceeded expectations in some cases,” Bacys said. “The goals going in were to win the conference, sectional and qualify everyone for state, and finally the unfinished part, be in the top 20 at the state tournament.”
Becca Lewis suffered a fractured foot in mid-September and missed nearly a month. She returned to action at sectional.
“With Becca hurt and everyone having to move up a spot at conference, we were not favored to win,” Bacys said. “That is when the girls all really stepped up on Friday night of conference and unexpectedly won all three titles in one of the coolest nights I have been a part of the last three years with this team. They really crushed Normal’s spirit.”
The Vikings had enough depth to win a fourth straight Big 12 Conference crown.
When Becca Lewis rejoined sister Rachael in the doubles lineup last week, the duo played at a high level. In their first two matches back together, they posted 6-0, 6-0 wins. At sectional, they won 48 of 56 games.
“I did not expect her to be back at this level so quickly,” Bacys said. “While she was out, she was at practice everyday feeding balls to the JV girls, which I think helped her learn how to control the ball and build strength in her arm. I honestly did not even know if she should come back.”
The Lewises (17-5 season record) are seeded 17-32 at state and, Bacys said, their draw is “favorable.”
This year marked the third year in a row the Lewises won a sectional title in doubles. Matching their qualifying feat was Amy Shah. She teamed up with Neha Patel to reach state for the second straight year. At sectionals, which Danville hosted, Shah and Patel won 36 of 37 games until facing the Lewises in the championship round.
“I think Amy and Neha (26-4 season record) have the ability to finish in the top 32,” Bacys said.
As a sophomore, Shah qualified for state with Megan Marble.
All of the Vikings’ doubles competitors are seniors, except junior Becca Lewis. Rachael Lewis hopes to continue her tennis career at Butler.
Danville’s state singles qualifiers are repeater Taylor Ellis (20-6) and first-timer Amanda Vadeboncoeur (16-9). Both are juniors.
“To get to this level a few things have happened,” Bacys said. “We had to build up the schedule. We wanted to have our girls compete against great competition and see these teams that are good every year and what it takes to play at that level. The other thing, that is hard to explain, is the fact that these girls love being around each other and have totally bought into the program and more importantly to each other. The seniors have done a great job of raising expectations and passing the idea of a team and competing every match and point, and not focusing on results to the younger girls.”
Centennial’s Chargers matched Danville’s feat of advancing the entire team to state for the second year in a row.
“We had big shoes to fill from last season when all six players made it,” coach Teri Scaggs said. “With four new players to the program, it is pretty impressive that all six players will go to state again this year.
“The skill is definitely there. We try and work on the mental game to stay positive during match play.”
Sophomore Lauren Neitzel, the sectional champion and a repeat state qualifier, and junior Teresa Boerma advanced in singles.
Scaggs said it wasn’t difficult to determine whether to enter Neitzel in singles or doubles.
“Lauren dominated our challenge singles matches and placed second in sectional play last season,” Scaggs said.
The Chargers’ two doubles teams met one another in the third-place match at sectional with freshman Willa Olson and junior Sophie Kim teaming up to beat sophomore Jacklyn Gunn and freshman Gressa Olson.
“Willa and Sophie have come a long way as partners since first being paired together at the Decatur Eisenhower match (Sept. 4),” Scaggs said. “They have good net games and complement each other well.”
Kim was part of a doubles team that reached state in 2012. Gunn and Olson will be making their state debut.
“They haven’t had as much doubles match-play together, but they have also come a long ways as partners,” Scaggs said.
CENTENNIAL — Teresa Boerma, jr. (left); Lauren Neitzel, so.
DANVILLE — Taylor Ellis, jr.; Amanda Vadeboncoeur, jr.
DANVILLE — Rachael Lewis, sr., and Becca Lewis, jr.; Amy Shah, sr., and Neha Patel, sr.
CENTENNIAL — Willa Olson, fr., and Sophie Kim, jr.; Jacklyn Gunn, so., and Gressa Olson, fr.
Today (9 a.m.), Friday and Saturday; Buffalo Grove and other suburban Chicago high schools. Admission is free.