Top teams: Benet, Downers Grove South, Hinsdale Central Naperville Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, York
Top players: Benet: Mary Beth King, sr.; Daniela Reyes, sr.; Leah Tzakis, jr: Downers Grove North: Sophia Fry, sr. Downers Grove South: Vicki Andonova, sr.; Amy Even, sr.; Dhara Puvar, sr.; Tiffany Bui, so.; Glenbard South: Jenna Brambora, so. Glenbard West: Molly Hennessy, sr.; Ali Bush, so., Caroline Maltby, fr.; Hinsdale Central: Marika Cusick, sr.; Caroline Lorendini, sr.; Tiffany Chen, sr.; Alex Solovyev, jr; Lake Park: Molly Fleming, sr.; Cassidy McGinn, sr. Metea Valley: Kelsey Chin, sr.; Nandita Baloo, sr.; Emily Dixon, jr, Ana Woods, sr. Naperville Central: Cass Goldner, so.; Cindy Liu, jr.; Tiffany Chen, sr. ; Naperville North: Kamile Stadalninkaite, sr.; Abbie Boswell, so.; Tiffany Oken, sr.; Kayla Maxson, sr.; Karen Liu, sr.; Julia Li, jr.; Neuqua Valley: Anusha Pai, so.; Riti Vohra, jr.; Christine Zhang, sr.; St. Francis: Ava Kolman, so.; Claire Eckert, sr.; Waubonsie Valley: Katie Drone, sr.; Amanda Glavin, jr.; Gennifer Taylor, jr.; Wheaton Academy, Lexi Welton, jr. ; Wheaton North: Grace Richards, so; Wheaton Warrenville South: Keisha Clousing, jr.; Lauren Castillo, sr.; York: Maria Avgerinos, sr.; Gabby Riek, sr.; Ellen Berry, sr.; Blaire Porter, jr.; Angela Avgerinos, so.;
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Outlook: With a trio of four-year mainstays graduated, Benet probably won't dominate opponents as they have in recent years, but the return of the state doubles team of King and Reyes assures the Redwings continued success. Singles Tzakis and a group of talented backups who have just been waiting for a chance to shine provide hope for more glory this year.
The battle for the DuPage Valley Conference title will be a dogfight, as usual, among the two Napervilles and Wheaton Warrenville South. Naperville North, last year's champ, has most of its lineup returning, led by the powerful Stadalninkaite and Boswell who will play singles in conference and doubles in sectionals as they hope to equal or top last year's Top 16 finish. Doubles Oken and Maxson have never lost in conference.
"We have to do it this year," coach Heather Henricksen said, "because most of our girls will graduate." The Redhawks should be right there with them with their own core of returning veterans, which also features a class doubles team in Goldner and Liu and an outstanding freshman in Chen who is being slotted right into the first-singles slot.
The Tigers are led by the great Keisha Clousing, but Emma Li's decision to skip high school tennis this season gives coach Patti Clousing some building to do. Her lineup includes some returning talent and some people who will be new to competing on this level. But don't count the Tigers out. Everybody else will be vying for that final first-division spot.
Neuqua Valley has made the Upstate Eight Conference title its permanent home, and last year the Wildcats won again, but they didn't have anyone make it to state. "We have better depth this year," said Wildcats coach Trudy Bennorth. "And we're solid all the way around. We just have to find the right combos and, of course, get somebody to state."
Both Waubonsie Valley and Metea Valley will be more mature and stronger this year. Both teams have many good options at both singles and doubles. The Warriors, with Drone at the head of the lineup, expect big things from both Glavin and Taylor, as well as several others who are poised for breakout years. Metea Valley has the star at the top of the lineup in Chin, Woods who is an exciting No. 2 and four interchangeable doubles teams that make the Mustangs a challenge in conference matches. And don't count out Lake Park, another team that has a nice mix of veteran and emerging talent. The Lancers, under new coach Ben Hussey, promise to make things a little uncomfortable for the leaders.
Returning Suburban Christian Conference champion St. Francis has better depth this year than it's had in a while, but the Spartans still have to fend off some worthy competition including Wheaton Academy and its first-singles state qualifier Welton.
Glenbard South will again be the class of the Metro Suburban Conference.
Downers Grove South expects to continue at the head of the West Suburban Gold with its typical veteran cast.
No matter how good teams like Glenbard West and York are, and they have been good for many years, they're still stuck behind defending state champion Hinsdale Central in the West Suburban Silver. While Glenbard West graduated three top-of-the-lineup people, there's still eight starters returning with Hennessy and Bush at the head of the group. York should be having one of its best years with five people returning from the state team, including Maria Avgerinos.
And then there's the Red Devils of Hinsdale Central with enough talent again to field a pair of top-rated teams. State champion doubles Cusick and Lorendini anchor this year's talented entry. Expect Hinsdale Central to be right in there fighting for the state championship, as it is every year.
Important dates: Sept. 1 Downers Grove South Team Tennis Invitational; Sept. 8 Waubonsie Valley Varsity Challenge Sept. 11 Hinsdale Central at Glenbard West; Sept. 27 Naperville North at Naperville, Central; Metea Valley at Neuqua Valley; Sept. 29 Naperville North Tournament Oct. 5-6 Conference Tournaments; Oct. 12-13 Sectionals; Oct. 18-20 State Tournament.