Welcome to state

Welcome to state

Preps coordinator Anthony Zilis spotlights STM, Danville and Uni High.

CHAMPAIGN — Of all things, friendship might have saved Mia Stipes and Delaney Tressler's doubles partnership this season.

The St. Thomas More duo went through a difficult time during the middle of the season. They allowed opponents to impose their will on the game, STM coach Jim Tressler said. A few losses piled up as a result. For many doubles teams, that type of situation can create division.

Not for Stipes and Tressler.

"They've been friends for a while, and the chemistry never wavered, which was good," Tressler said. "That can happen sometimes when things don't go well personally with them. The chemistry stayed good and that helped them get through the rough patches."

At last weekend's Class 1A sectional, Stipes and Tressler lost just four games en route to the final. They beat teammates Caroline Waddell and Kayley Schacht 6-3, 7-6 to reach that point.

Five Sabers qualified for state, including those four aforementioned seniors and sophomore Noelle Schacht. Waddell and Schacht were an entirely different case than STM's other doubles' team. They weren't originally doubles partners this season, but Tressler put them together later in the year.

"We thought they might do well together," Tressler said. "We put them in a match and they looked really good, so we felt like maybe that was a chance to win more matches at sectionals and get some more girls to state."

A year ago, Stipes and Tressler won two matches in the 1A consolation bracket to make it to the second day of the state tournament. This year, that'll be the objective for all of the Sabers. No matter what, this postseason will be a success after STM set a program record with five state entrants.

"The goal for everyone is to get to the second day. You hate to go out on the first day," Tressler said. "I think us going up as a group of five will add to the excitement for them."

Houpt, Ellis keep Vikings competitive

DANVILLE — The atmosphere around Danville girls' tennis practices was decidedly different this year. Players were pushing to win every sprint with determination not found in previous years. That newfound exuberance can be traced to freshman Erin Houpt — a surprise addition to Danville coach Mark Bacys' team.

"She's a basketball player. That's her love," Bacys said of Houpt. "She wasn't really sure if she was going to go out for tennis. It took some convincing, and what she's brought to the whole team is how to compete, and how to approach things. She's just got a winners' mentality.

"We haven't had that before. We've always had people competing, but they haven't expressed that they want to win and dominate each drill, and so she does that and it trickles down to everybody."

Houpt has played tennis throughout her life. Her father — current Danville boys' basketball coach Ted Houpt — used to coach tennis at Danville and her mother, Kathy, played for Ball State.

Erin Houpt reached the singles final at last Saturday's Class 2A Normal Community Sectional before a 6-0, 6-0 defeat to teammate and close friend Lauren Ellis.

"They do pretty much everything together, so it was awkward for them to go out and try to crush the other one," Bacys said.

With those two leading the way, the Vikings finished second at the sectional meet. This weekend, Houpt will try to repeat what Ellis did a year ago at state. For Ellis, the goal is to win two matches and advance to the event's second day.

"We'd like (Lauren) to be playing on Friday," Bacys said. "For Erin, (the benefit is) for the experience to go up there and to compete and to see what she can do, how many games she can get and see who she can match up against."

Huang, Qiu give Uni High presence at state

URBANA — For Uni High seniors Lindsay Huang and Grace Qiu, the postseason is their time to shine. The Illineks don't have a full team, so they compete as individuals all year. That doesn't mean they haven't improved plenty while the rest of the high school tennis scene wasn't watching.

"They're stronger players," Uni High coach Dave Bergandine said. "They've got tougher serves, (and) they are very aggressive on the court. In one regard, they haven't played at their best yet. They played a nice match with each other (last) Saturday, but we're really expecting them to peak once they get to the state tournament."

Huang and Qiu lost just one game apiece before playing each other in the Class 1A sectional final. Huang won the matchup, 6-4, 6-0. This weekend, the duo has high goals in the three-day tournament.

"I think definitely the goal would be to remain in the tournament through Saturday," Bergandine said. "Lindsay has a goal of staying in the championship bracket all the way through."

Grace has a goal of remaining in the tournament through Friday, and we'll see after that."