With the construction of the Kennelly Athletic Complex, the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls tennis team knew it would not have a home court this season. With the help of athletic directors John Treiber and Tom Domin however, head coach Bob Hegner was able to secure the Oakbrook Tennis Center courts as a home base for the Bulldogs.
“The situation was unusual because we have no tennis courts at RB this year and for the foreseeable future,” Hegner said. “Things were looking pretty bleak during the summer but we were quite fortunate to pull off this deal. …
“The girls are adjusting but have had a great attitude. With the extra travel time, they have been on time, ready to leave for practice and matches and have helped load the bus with practice equipment. I have nothing but praise for the girls about the way they have handled everything.”
The players have also responded well between the lines as RBHS (4-0) is off to a fast with dual match wins over Willowbrook, Addison Trail, Morton and Proviso West. The team also took second at the Bolingbrook Invite.
Juniors Caroline Willinger and Samantha Miezio are playing well at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively.
“Caroline hits a harder, flat ball and tends to win in marathon fashion,” Hegner said. “Samantha has some variety to her game and she’s a pretty smart player. Both girls played a lot of tennis over the summer.”
Sophomore Radka Pribyl Pierdinock will likely see action at third singles and one doubles for the Bulldogs. McKenna Powers is Pribyl Pierdinock’s partner at No. 1 doubles with Kathryn Sessler and Lilly Holubek slotted at second doubles.
“Things don’t look too bad for the future,” Hegner said. “Even though we are probably not as strong as last year, the saving grace is I can’t ask for a better bunch of girls to work with this season.”
Despite the loss of considerable talent each season, the Lions annually reload rather than rebuild. This year is no exception with the return of junior Jelly Bozovic (3-2 at state meet in 2014), sophomore Joie Reisch and seniors Sophia Allison and Stefana Vasic. All four were on last year’s team which placed third in the state, won a sectional title and finished 20-6 overall.
Those four ensure stability for the LTHS which lost Meg Kowalski (29-2, 4th in singles at state) and graduated Megan Hickey (21-5 overall record, 4th in doubles at state with Vasic).
Kowalski, who had a superb freshman campaign with LTHS, lost to Naperville Central’s Tiffany Chen 7-5, 6-2 in the singles third-place match at state last year. She didn’t return to LTHS and is being home-schooled while competing in national tournaments as well this year.
Per usual, the two top spots in the West Suburban Confernece Silver Division belong to two-time defending state champion Hinsdale Central with LTHS as the Red Devils’ primary competition. Oak Park and River Forest typically fields a very solid team as well.
“We will have strong singles play and solid No. 1 doubles as well,” said coach Bill Wham, who has coached LTHS girls tennis for 20 years. “We have to develop out our second and third doubles teams.”
The Friars finished 8-1 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference and placed third in the Oak Park and River Forest Sectional last year. Despite the loss of its top four players in doubles and a move into the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference, Fenwick appears on track for another successful season.
The Friars already have notched victories over Carmel (4-3), Rosary (5-3) and Francis Parker (7-1) in addition to winning the Fremd Invite championship and placing fourth out of 16 teams at the Champaign Invitational.
Fenwick went 8-7 on the varsity level at the Hinsdale Central Invite over the weekend. The Friars defeated Hinsdale South 4-1 to notch their lone win at the tournament.
Senior Laura Gutierrez, who finished in the top-24 singles in the state tournament the past three years, returns as the team’s most talented and experienced player at No. 1 singles. Lindsey Sloan, a co-captain with Gutierrez, slides into the No. 2 singles position after playing both No. 3 singles and doubles last year.
Sophomore Haley Fakouri and junior Ceci Walsh are at No. 1 doubles while seniors Kim Burda and Patty Napleton hold down No. 2 doubles. Varsity newcomers Corinne Joss and Meg Whalen complete the starting lineup as the Friars’ third doubles team.
Senior Clare Sullivan and juniors Rory Vrdolyak, Isabelle N’Doumy, Gaby Prado and Catie Parrilli will contribute this season as well.
“Our goals are to be the toughest, hardest-working and classiest team in our new conference, the GCAC,” Fenwick coach Gerard Sullivan said. “If we do that, good things will happen this season. Loyola is defending champion and the team to beat and we will have tough challenges from St. Ignatius and St. Francis [in the GCAC Red Division].”
Although the Blazers are off to an 0-5 start this fall, coach Alice Tebbutt is more focused on the development of her players.
“I hope to guide the players into using more strategy in their matches,” said Tebbutt, who took over the program in 2014 when Mary Ann Lappe retired. “I want our players to control the ball rather than having the ball or their opponents dictate the point. It’s also important to have reflection and discussion after each match.”
Senior Katelyn Sulander and junior Maureen Dudzinski are the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players, respectively, for the Blazers.
“Katelyn is coming into the season with great athletic condition, powerful shots and tremendous work ethic,” Tebbutt said. “Maureen is quick on her feet and a strong baseliner.”
Kate Cusack provides another option at singles, while seniors Jennifer Long and Margaret Toohey are No. 1 doubles.
“Jennifer and Maggie are longtime partners in doubles and have great teamwork,” Tebbutt said. “They are two very committed players who are never afraid to try a new strategy in their matches and keep changing things up for their opponents.”