Two years ago Wheaton Warrenville South's Keisha Clousing was the freshman who could play with no pressure in the DuPage Valley Conference tennis championship match because she was the new kid and she had "nothing to lose."
On Saturday Clousing, who finished second and fourth at state in her first two years of high school, was challenged to the maximum before defeating the newest freshman star Tiffany Chen of Naperville Central 7-5, 6-4.
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Chen held the lead early in both sets.
"Tiffany played amazing," Clousing said. "Her groundstrokes and angles are fantastic, and her serve was working well throughout the match. She was really on her game."
Patti Clousing, the Tigers coach and Keisha's mom, remembers how it was for her daughter when she was the newcomer.
"Keisha would come to me in awe of some of the bigger-name players," Patti said. "And I had to remind her to just go out and play her game and be loose because she had nothing to lose. Today, Tiffany went for it today and Keisha, now the veteran, had to work hard to beat her."
Coach Clousing thought that her daughter's experience helped her win in the end.
"She was confident and she put her game face on," Patti said. "She just stayed engaged and stepped up and played the way she knows how to. This is the part of the season Keisha has been looking forward to, and she should raise the level of her game from here on in."
Chen, who had a wonderful freshman year for the Redhawks, lost twice during the season to the reigning DVC champ by wider margins. But she learned from those experiences.
"I realized that I had to keep the ball deeper than I had in those other matches against Keisha," Chen said. "It helps my confidence that I came so close to such a great player."
On Saturday, Naperville North, the tournament site, took home its second straight DVC title by winning three of the four doubles titles as well as second singles.
The Huskies, who went into the tournament with a 1-point lead, finished the tournament with 60 points for the season, 4 ahead of Naperville Central. Wheaton Warrenville South was third with 52.5, followed by Wheaton North with 27.5 and West Aurora with 24.5.
"We had high hopes for this team at the beginning of the season," said Naperville North coach Heather Henricksen. "We had a good group of seniors returning from a conference championship team. When you have talented seniors leading your team, they know how much drive and determination it takes to win."
Among the winners on Saturday for the Huskies were: second singles Abbie Boswell, first doubles Kayla Maxson and Tiffany Oken, third doubles Jessica Hu and Ellen Heidenreich and fourth doubles Nadia Hussain and Kireem Nam. Maxson, Oken and Heidenreich are all members of that strong senior class.
In a nail-biter Maxson and Oken fought back from a 4-1 second-set deficit to defeat Cass Goldner and Cindy Liu of Naperville Central. 6-3, 7-6 (9-7).
Naperville Central's second doubles Meaghan Bedijian and Maria Mihailescu and third singles Rachel Henderlite of Wheaton Warrenville South also won individual titles.
West Aurora's Emily Stefancic won her third-place match with Naperville North's Kamile Stadalankaite 6-3, 6-2.
"She's an awesome player," Stefancic said about her opponent. "But I think the wind gave me a little advantage because I'm usually good at adjusting to different conditions. I was comfortable and confident that I could win."
West Aurora coach Tad Keely had high praise for Stefancic and for his fourth-doubles team of Mary Sutarik and Brogan McKay, who finished fourth, and he was happy with the team's overall fifth-place finish.
"We played tough and held our seeds and that was good," Keely said. "After losing some good seniors from last year we came together and did the best we could this season."