Glenbard West girls tennis coach Jim Valleskey was generally happy with the way his team battled, but he expected a better result than the Hilltoppers' 5-2 loss to Lyons Twp. on Tuesday.
After all, the Hilltoppers (7-1) made a strong showing against perennial West Suburban Silver champion last Saturday before losing in the finals of the Downers Grove South Team Tournament.
"This was a rough one for us," Valleskey said. "We had better hopes than this. We played them tough and lost a couple of close matches. But I guess this is how our league will go this year because there are so many strong teams."
It isn't as if the Hilltoppers lost to just anyone. The Lions (6-0) bring strong credentials to the conference race.
The Lions finished fifth at state last year on the strength of two of the best singles players in Illinois: Alex Chatt, who finished second, and Kristen Thoms, who finished in the top 16.
The Hilltoppers' Caroline Maltby played well against Chatt at first singles before losing 6-3, 6-4. And Thoms, playing first doubles with her partner, Stefana Vasic, won 6-1, 6-3.
Both Valleskey and Lyons coach Bill Wham believe the Lions have a chance to threaten Hinsdale Central for the conference title.
"Lyons will challenge them," Valleskey said. "But Hinsdale Central is still the team to beat."
"Hinsdale is a little better than we are," Wham said. "But we we're strong at singles and we've got a doubles team of Jelly Bozovic and Stefana Vasic that will be very good. It's going to be an interesting year in our conference because there are so many strong teams."
The Hilltoppers showed its quality depth with wins at third singles and fourth doubles.
Sarah Park, who is playing in only her second year of organized tennis, fought back from a first set loss to top Lyons' Melissa Ko 6-3, 6-2 in the second and third sets for one of the Hilltoppers' points.
"After the first set I figured out what was working for me," Park said. "I went to my forehand and drove the ball deep in the corner. She seemed to be tiring in the heat and I was feeling strong. My mental game has gotten a lot stronger since last year. I'm using a lot more strategy."
The Hilltoppers' fourth doubles team of Cece Casolino and Megan Morris won their match 6-1, 6-1.
"This is our second year playing as a team," Casolino said. "And that experience has really helped us. We started a little slowly today, but as the match went on we started working together as a team and really focusing on each point. We were really in sync."