Alex Chatt waited until two weeks before the school year began to decide whether or not to play high school tennis this fall.
With a scholarship to Northwestern and two state medals in her pocket, the Lyons Township High School senior had nothing to prove. She did, however, want to take one last shot at winning a state championship.
The top-seeded Chatt fell just short of that when Hinsdale Central freshman Isabella Lorenzini beat her 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in the semifinals on Saturday at Buffalo Grove. Chatt had been trying to become just the second singles state champion in LTHS history, joining Margie Lepsi, who won titles in 1991 and 1993.
“[Her comeback] was kind of iffy the whole year but it kind of dwindled down to I had to take care of business and I just personally love my team,” Chatt said. “So I think senior year I just had to do the experience.”
What an experience it was. The team camaraderie and a chance to add to her school’s history ultimately fueled Chatt, who won her first 25 matches this fall and finished 26-1, capping her career with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over New Trier’s Carol Finke in the third-place match. She lost just five matches in the last three years, finishing second in the state in 2011 and third last year.
“This is probably my favorite year,” Chatt said. “I’ve bonded with these girls more than I have every single year. Two of my friends and their dad came out to watch [at state] and it’s a great experience.”
The powerful yet quick Chatt has long been one of the top players in the state. She was two points away from winning state as a sophomore before losing to Morgan Park Academy’s Jerricka Boone 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. That, along with her 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 loss to eventual champion Keisha Clousing of Wheaton Warrenville South in the 2012 semifinals, ultimately made Chatt’s return inevitable.
“She made the right decision to play,” LTHS coach Bill Wham said. “I didn’t have to say anything to get her to play. I expected her to play and she’s played well.”
Wham has known Chatt since she began playing tennis in fourth grade. Her parents introduced to her to the sport and she soon fell in love with it.
“I really liked the independence, I really liked the individual mentality and I really liked the pressure and the adrenaline and it just kind of stuck with me,” Chatt said. “It builds character. It’s a sport you’ll play forever.”
Despite her semifinal defeat this year, Chatt will be remembered as one of the best players in LTHS history. She is just the third Lion to win three state singles medals and the second, after Lepsi, to reach the semifinals three times.
That legacy, which included leading the Lions to sixth place in the team standings this year, is the main difference between the anonymity of club tennis and the community-based aspect of high school tennis and one of the reasons that enticed Chatt to play this year.
“It’s a big deal just because I love being that person at school that’s known as a tennis player,” Chatt said. “I love having that name and I think adding on to the history of the school is so important. Another reason why I play is LT is a great school and I think I [should] try and help get our team as far as we can, so it means a lot to me.”
It also means a lot to Wham, who finished fifth in the state in singles in 1960 for Evanston and played at Indiana University.
“I’m happy for her because a lot of kids will go [only] so far, but she liked the game so much that she went beyond so far and really has picked up national rankings and all that,” Wham said. “I couldn’t be happier for her.
“If you win the [club tournaments], who cares? [People] don’t even care that you went, but when you walk into Lyons Township…and you see Alex’s picture and the records that she’s set, [she built] her own legacy. That will be there forever.”