Top teams: Naperville Central, Benet, Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central, Neuqua Valley, Timothy Christian, Naperville North, York.
Top players: Benet: Leah Tzakis, sr.; Maggie Wilhelm, sr.; Coco Tzakis, so.; Shea Gallagher, sr.; Downers Grove North: Karly Weber, sr.; Downers Grove South: Christine Pavlov, jr.; Fenton: Demetra Arianas, sr.; Monika Gurdak, jr.; Glenbard East: Priscilla Palermo, fr.; Glenbard North: Casey Boland, jr.; Sami Ege, sr.; Glenbard South: Jenna Brambora, jr.; Rachel Rettger, jr.; Glenbard West: Ali Bush, jr.; Maggie Hughes, sr.; Grace Norgaard, jr.; Caroline Maltby, so.; Hinsdale Central: Sophia Haleas, so.; Katie Lee, sr.; Hinsdale South: Paula Bozhilova, sr.; Vistella Bozhilova, so.; IC Catholic Prep: Kelly Hodyl, fr.; Metea Valley: Emily Dixon, sr.; Delaney Earley, sr.; Tyler Proszowski, sr.; Montini: Gabby Stinsa, so.; Sophia Yunez, so.; Naperville Central: Tiffany Chen, so.; Cass Goldner, jr.; Cindy Liu, sr. Sara Furukawa, sr.; Naperville North: Jessica Hu, jr.; Madhura Patil, jr., Julia Li, sr.; Neuqua Valley: Taylor Hershey, jr.; Jessica Chin, fr., Riti Vohra, sr.; Anusha Pai, jr.; St. Francis: Ava Kolman, jr.; Anne Marie Jagielo, jr.; Alexis Langley, jr.; Timothy Christian: McKenna Byrne, so.; Annika Zeilstra, sr.; Sarah Dirkse, sr.; Waubonsie Valley: Amanda Glavin, sr.; Saay Nath, sr.; Ignaicia Caviedes, sr.; Wheaton Academy: Lexi Walton sr,; Betsy Jones, sr.; Wheaton North: Grace Richardson, jr.; Jordan Willhoit, sr.; Lisa Waterman, sr.; Wheaton Warrenville South: Katya Shcherbyna, so.; Willowbrook: Katherine Hinman, sr.; York: Blaire Porter, sr.; Angela Avgerinos, jr.; Annie Rivera, jr.
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Outlook: As the girls tennis season starts there's some focus on who is not playing this year. State champion Keisha Clousing of Wheaton Warrenville South and runner-up Alex Solovyev of Hinsdale Central will both forego their senior seasons in order to participate in events on the national circuit. And Naperville North will be without its athletic junior doubles player and team-leader Abbie Boswell, who will miss the season due to a knee injury. But even though these superbly talented players are out, there is still plenty of talent around to give DuPage County formidable representation at state.
With Boswell injured, Naperville North coach Heather Henricksen is rebuilding the Huskies' doubles lineup to mount a challenge to cross-town rival Naperville Central, the team to beat in the DuPage Valley Conference.
The Redhawks are led by Chen, who established herself as one of the true elites by finishing fourth at state in her freshman year. Naperville Central coach Don Bonet, who is already in awe of Chen's talent and her mental approach to the game, said: "Tiffany is very consistent and focused. She never gets rattled. The only thing she lacked last year was power, and that is improving. She's bigger and stronger than last year and she's very quick. It's nice to have a great first-singles player for four years." The powerful Redhawks also return a top-flight doubles team in Liu and returnees Furukawa and Bedigian, who have a good chance of making state.
Even without Boswell, Naperville North is favored to present the greatest challenge to the Redhawks. Hu is a two-time conference doubles champion and just one of a group that could develop into a pretty formidable lineup.
Despite missing Clousing, Wheaton Warrenville South will be, as always, tough at the end of the season. Wheaton North and Glenbard East will also challenge the Tigers for first-division spots in the DVC.
Neuqua Valley has won the last 12 Upstate Eight Conference titles, but last year's crown was bittersweet because the Wildcats did not have a state qualifier. Coach Trudy Bennorth has all kinds of possibilities this year with the returning Hershey and Pai, Vohra healthy again after missing last season with an injury and outstanding freshman Chin. "We have good depth and a lot of options," Bennorth said. "We just have to get some people to state."
Waubonsie Valley gets a lot of veteran talent back, including two-time state doubles qualifier Glavin. "We could turn out to be a pretty good team this year," said Warriors coach Phil Galow. "We don't have the super first-singles player, but the rest of our lineup is pretty solid."
Metea Valley has to replace a number of graduated seniors, but coach Karly Olson returns a trio of reliable seniors in Earley, Dixon and Proszowski, and there is a new generation of promising players moving up to the varsity.
Perennial state contender Hinsdale Central lost heavily from the second place at state team, including Solovyev. While coach Robin Kramer calls this a rebuilding year, the talent will continue to flow for the Red Devils. Singles Haleas and doubles Lee return from the state lineup to anchor this year's team. "Going in, we're really not as strong as we have been in recent years," Kramer said.
York, sixth at state, and Glenbard West, top 20, are not hopeful of dislodging Hinsdale Central from the West Suburban Silver top spot, even in a supposed down year for the Red Devils. They both return several state qualifiers and field their usual strong teams. York is led by Porter, Avgerinos and Rivera, while Glenbard West features Bush, Hughes and Norgaard. Downers Grove South and Hinsdale South will again battle for the West Suburban Conference Gold top spot, while an improving Willowbrook is a team to watch.
Benet goes into the season without a veteran state qualifying doubles team as it has had in recent years, but first-year girls coach and longtime boys coach Michael Hand has high expectations for a strong battle-tested lineup headed by singles Leah Tzakis, who finished top 32 last year. "We expect no less than we do every year," Hand said. "We'll be competitive, hopefully win conference and play our best tennis at sectional."
Glenbard South is looking to repeat as Metro Suburban Conference champion, while Timothy Christian, a team with the best quality and depth it's had in years, will challenge. Wheaton Academy, which is led by the impressive Walton, will be looking to fight off an improved St. Francis squad for the Suburban Christian Conference title.
Key dates: Sept. 7: Downers Grove South Tournament; Sept. 18: Naperville Central at Neuqua Valley; Sept. 17: Metea Valley at Waubonsie Valley; Sept. 17: Timothy Christian at Glenbard South; Sept. 19: Glenbard East at Naperville Central; Oct. 5: Naperville North Invite; Oct. 7 Naperville Central at Naperville North; Oct. 8: Neuqua Valley at Waubonsie Valley; Oct. 11-12: Conference meets; Oct. 18-19: sectional meets; Oct. 24-26: state meet.