The Benet girls tennis team won its seventh straight East Suburban Catholic Conference title under coach Bob Comerford, but the Redwings are still facing one more major test this weekend in the talent-packed Naperville North sectional.
"The doubles group at sectionals will be especially interesting," Comerford said. "Any doubles team can win. All we can guarantee is that we have two strong doubles teams and they will be in the mix."
The Redwings will be led by seniors Daniella Reyes and Mary Beth King, who, as a doubles team, finished in the top 16 at state the past two years.
Benet's second doubles players, Olivia Watson and Maggie Wilhelm, are going into sectional on a high note after winning the conference tournament last Saturday.
"Olivia and Maggie are capable of beating anybody, but there are a lot of good teams out there," Comerford said. "Naperville North has two strong doubles teams, Naperville Central, Neuqua Valley and Wheaton Warrenville South all have teams that are potential state qualifiers."
Naperville North's Abbie Boswell and Kamile Stadalankaite went deep into the state tournament last year, and Kayla Maxson and Tiffany Oken, the DuPage Valley Conference champions, are crafty veterans who have been together for a long time and just know how to win.
The Redhawks' Cass Goldner and Cindy Liu, the Tigers' Lauren Castillo and Kaylin Rhoads and the Wildcats' Christine Zhang and Taylor Hershey are all potential qualifiers.
At singles Benet offers Leah Tzakis, who is highly ranked in the Midwest, and her younger sister Coco Tzakis, who was the second-singles conference champion.
"The singles group is more clear-cut," Comerford said. "The field, of course, is led by Keisha Clousing of Wheaton Warrenville South with Tiffany Chen of Naperville Central, Kelsey Chin of Metea Valley and our girls fighting for state slots."
A Wildcats dozen:
Neuqua Valley's superior depth helped the Wildcats win their 12th straight Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division title last Saturday, ahead of Metea Valley in second and Waubonsie Valley in third.
Neuqua's Jen Cha won the second singles, and Amy McNeel won third singles.
The Wildcats also took three of the four doubles flights with Zhang and Hershey winning the gold at first doubles and Katie Beshilas and Akshita Pillai winning at three and Hailey Walton and Allie Pastine going home with the title at fourth doubles.
"We have a strong team in terms of depth," said Neuqua Valley coach Trudy Bennorth. "We can compete with anyone in dual meets and at the conference tournament. We just need our top level of kids to believe in themselves and play out of our heads to do well in a very tough sectional."
Waubonsie Valley coach Phil Galow was pleased with the play of a couple of seniors Nadia Gonzalez and Nithya Sridhar, both of whom finished second at second singles and third singles respectively.
"Nadia has done a 180-degree turn from doubles to singles in one year and that's not easy," Galow said. "She has put in the hard work and now she's reaping the benefits her efforts. She's a tough kid with a little bit of attitude. Nithya is good enough to be a No. 2 singles on a lot of teams. She's a baseline player, but she plays quick matches. She's got some offense in her forehand."
Lake Park coach Ben Hussey was pleased by the work of several of his Lancers, including a pair of fourth-place finishes by second-singles Aashna Patel and first-doubles Molly Fleming and Cassidy McGinn.
"Aashna had a great tournament," Hussey said. "And Molly and Cassidy are solid when their game is on. They have the potential to make it to state if they play the way they played last weekend."
Hussey also praised first-singles Claudia Kazmirak for her fine season against the opponents' top players.
"Claudia had a tough draw Saturday, but she had a fine season," Hussey said. "She can hit with pace and she can rally with just about anyone. She's a good athlete and a hard worker. She just needs the consistency that experience will bring. She'll work hard in the off-season, and we expect her to be even better next year."
Wheaton Warrenville South coach Patti Clousing is amazed by the play of Rachel Henderlite, the Tigers junior who won the DVC championship at third singles last week.
"Rachel just does not make mistakes," Clousing said. "She's willing to stay out there as long as it takes to win. Her consistency has won a lot of matches for her this year. She just frustrates opponents until they get impatient and start to over-hit. And she's starting to add power to her game. She's someone to watch for next year. That was a great win for her last Saturday."