Geneva badminton coach Pat Fischer called No. 1 singles player Ann Green a "wonderful musician," an Ohio State-bound senior who plays flute in the Elgin Symphony Orchestra.
Now Green is ready to make noise in the state badminton tournament. It starts Friday at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
"She's just very tenacious," said Fischer, who also sends his No. 1 doubles team of Nicole Schneider and Suchada "May" Ritsiri, 22-10 this season and coming off the Willowbrook sectional title.
"She can hit just about any shot," Fisher said of Green. "She can clear it from anywhere, can hit a drop shot from anywhere. I've been on the receiving end of a couple of her smashes and they've left welts on me."
Meanwhile, St. Charles North promotes its No. 1 doubles team of Amanda Garbarz and Saadiya Jabbar to the state tournament. Finishing two points out of third at the Willowbrook sectional, they get the unenviable task of opening against the tournament's third-seeded doubles team, out of Reavis.
St. Charles North has produced one badminton state medalist, fifth-place singles player Kumiko Kinugawa in 2002. Geneva has never placed a medalist.
Fischer obviously hopes Green can take that next step. She's unseeded but owns a 27-9 record with third-place finishes at Willowbrook and in the Upstate Eight. Green opens play in the second match of the day against unseeded Glenbard West junior Sarah Haggerty. If successful, Green would likely face the tournament's No. 1 seed in singles, Hinsdale Central's Ailynna Chen.
Fischer said Green, a team captain, is a great student with instinct, good feet and no weakness on the badminton court. He called her a "trooper" because while she's been No. 1 singles the last three years, qualifying for state each time, early this season she filled in at No. 2 doubles when the Vikings needed someone to step in.
"I think she's got a good chance to make some noise down there especially if she plays well," Fischer said. "There've been a couple days where I've watched her, in awe of her ability. When she's on she's very, very tough to beat."
So too are Schneider-Ritsiri. A new doubles team this year, early on they were a little tough to figure, Fischer suggested.
"They had a little bit of trouble meshing at the beginning of the year but really turned it on at sectional," he said.
He called them "the odd couple." Fischer said Schneider is outgoing, loud, always smiling with an aggressive game to match. Ritsiri is a soft-spoken finesse player.
"I'm encouraged with the way they played," Fischer said. "I think they really have a shot at making it to the second day for the first time. The singles at state is so strong."
Coincidentally, Fischer said he and St. Charles North badminton coach Michael Smith share the same chiropractor. Smith is hoping his team of Amanda Garbarz and Saadiya Jabbar emerges as a major pain in the neck for Reavis' Denna Zayed-Marissa Mangala in a first-round doubles match featuring four seniors.
Smith reported that Garbarz-Jabbar, 14-14 on the season, finished fourth in the Upstate Eight Conference Tournament at No. 1 doubles. Also playing at No. 2 singles, Jabbar took third.
"Amanda usually plays the back and is a heavy hitter," Smith wrote in an email. "Saadiya lulls the opponents to sleep with her sneaky net play."
The Metro Suburban Conference's invitation of and subsequent acceptance by seven Suburban Christian Conference schools to join the MSC in the 2014-15 academic year leaves Marmion, St. Francis, Aurora Christian, Montini and Marian Central scrambling.
Benet athletic director Gary Goforth, who had said the East Suburban Catholic Conference had invited three schools into the ESCC in the past, said an early volley to the SCC remainders was launched Wednesday at an ESCC Board of Controls meeting.
Though Goforth said "nothing concrete" happened, he did note applications would or will be sent to the five SCC schools. They have three weeks to receive and respond, he said, and the ESCC then has 30 days to respond.
A conclusion "may happen in the middle of summer," Goforth said.
The former Benet football coach said more information will be asked of the SCC schools, who may have questions of their own about joining the ESCC. An ESCC Expansion Committee will meet Wednesday or Thursday of next week, he said.
"I'm excited, but reserved," Goforth said.
All day long
The first lacrosse matches at Marmion on Saturday start at 7 a.m. The last start at 5 p.m. with trophy presentation at 6 p.m. In between the annual Cadet Challenge Lacrosse Tournament will offer a gaggle of games.
Twelve high schools will participate spanning frosh-soph, junior varsity and varsity levels. Varsity teams include the host Cadets, Montini, West Chicago, Minooka, Lockport, Notre Dame, Belvidere and Lane Tech. Geneva, Bartlett and Naperville Central are among those joining Marmion on the lower levels.
One of the largest single-day lacrosse tournaments in the area, there will be a $5 parking fee to defray costs of the tournament, which allows some of these schools to participate.
"Bring it all Back Home"
A groundbreaking ceremony for St. Francis' new Kuhn Memorial Stadium complex will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at the existing field. Wheaton Park District Executive Director Mike Benard, Fr. John Belmonte, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Joliet Diocese, the St. Francis board, heads of various athletic programs and a bevy of Spartan supporters will be on hand to witness the dawning of this momentous development.
"I'm just really excited about what this means for our community," said St. Francis President Tom Bednar. "I know this has been something people have dreamed about for four decades, and it'll be just a joy to have it be a realization."
Phase I of the twofold development includes a FieldTurf athletic field, restructured home and visitors stands, a new press box (yippee!) and a 400-meter, six-lane track with 120-meter straightaway constructed by Midwest Track Builders, Bednar said.
Thus far Bednar said approximately $3,050,000 has been pledged by 347 donors -- including the cool million from St. Francis graduates Ron and Teri Kuhn -- with 70 percent collected thus far. Another large chunk is expected by the end of May with the remainder this summer.
Phase II, with an initial budget of $1.4 million, will deliver a two-story building to house concessions, locker room, restrooms, storage and a second-floor practice space for wrestling, cheerleading and dance. Bednar hopes to start raising cash for that this summer with construction next summer.
For now it's a kick to consider St. Francis will host football on campus for the first time in more than two years -- possibly the Aug. 30 opener against Riverside-Brookfield -- and next spring girls and boys track coach Scott Nelson can host a meet for the first time, period.
"Coming off of gravel, that's going to be heaven for Scott and his program," said Spartans athletic director Dan Hardwick. "The excitement and the buzz we've got going around the building and what it's going to mean for our student athletes is very exciting."
While evicting the Canada geese who enjoy the current floodplain, the new field obviously will also benefit soccer, lacrosse, marching band and physical education classes.
"There won't be a student who won't be using it at some point of the year," Bednar said.
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