Riverside-Brookfield senior Caroline Willinger has been nearly unstoppable when she takes to the tennis court this season.
Ditto for her teammates.
Thanks to a combination of poor weather and logistics, that hasn’t been as often as she would have liked.
Willinger has compiled a 6-1 record at No. 1 singles for the Bulldogs, who have had countless practices and several meets washed out by rain. That includes Saturday’s Willowbrook Invite, where RBHS was hoping to build on its second-place finish at the Bolingbrook Invite.
“We haven’t had a lot of matches,” RBHS coach Bob Hegner said. “The weather has been absolutely terrible.
“August was the wettest on record. The first 17 days (since the opening of tryouts), nine days were cancelled or interrupted by rain. It has just been brutal.”
When the weather has cooperated, the Bulldogs have put a smile on Hegner’s face. They are 3-1 in dual meets and their runner-up showing at Bolingbrook came against an eight-team field.
Willinger finished second at No. 1 singles at Bolingbrook, while senior Sam Miezio took third at No. 2 singles. Juniors Radka Pribyl-Pierdinock and Jane Frank captured the championship at No. 2 doubles.
Hegner has been pleased with the performance of Willinger, who is not as skilled as the players from state powerhouses such as Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township but every bit as determined.
“She’s done well,” Hegner said. “She can hit it pretty hard.
“She doesn’t really use a lot of tactics. She just bulldozers right through and keepings hitting away until the other girl misses.”
While Hegner would like to see Willinger improve her all-around game and employ more strategy like trying to end points sooner, his ace is content to pound away from the baseline.
“These matches can go on forever so they are very tiring,” Hegner said. “But that’s her style and it’s been working for her.”
Miezio also has a 6-1 record, splitting her time between No. 2 and No. 3 singles with Pribyl-Pierdinock.
“We have those three girls who are pretty good singles players,” Hegner said. “They want to play singles but we have to move them around a bit because our conference (Metro Suburban) plays only two singles and three doubles.
Pribyl-Pierdinock and Frank are 6-1 in doubles, while the top doubles team of junior Ava Collins and senior Kathryn Sessler has a 4-2 record.
Seniors Nicole Bajerek, Natalie Jensen, Taylor Jensen and Alexia Flores round out a roster that is hungry for playing time, both in practices and in matches.
The RBHS tennis courts were torn up as part of the football stadium’s renovations. They were supposed to have been replaced by now but have not because of ongoing litigation between the school district and the city of Brookfield.
Hegner was able to secure court time for his team at the Oak Brook Tennis Center, where he is a member, but those courts are being resurfaced. In the meantime, the Bulldogs have been relegated to practicing at Ehlert Park in Brookfield and Indian Gardens Park in Riverside, which hosts their home matches.
“This has been a tough season,” Hegner said. “We don’t even have a home away from home.
“We’re playing it week-to-week and the girls are hanging in there, but I feel bad for the seniors because they don’t have any home courts.”
Scheduling home meets has been a challenge and away matches have been a struggle. Two opponents cancelled at the last minute and others did not field JV teams.
“Our girls are eager to play,” Hegner said. “Then we had to tell them that 13 of the 16 can’t play. We have to play everything by ear.”