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updated: 10/21/2013 8:29 PM

Benet's tennis house party

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  • Leah Tzakis of Benet moves up for a volley in tennis action against Naperville Central on Tuesday in Naperville.

       Leah Tzakis of Benet moves up for a volley in tennis action against Naperville Central on Tuesday in Naperville.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
By Neil Shalin
Daily Herald Correspondent

The entire Benet girls state tennis team lives in one house.

The Redwings will be represented at the state tournament, which starts this Thursday, by singles players Leah Tzakis, a senior and three-time qualifier, and her sister Coco, a sophomore who is going to state for the first time.

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At last weekend's Naperville North sectional, Leah finished second and Coco finished third in order to make it to state.

According to Benet coach Michael Hand, the two girls have distinctly different personalities and styles on the tennis court, but you can see the improvement they've made by having each other to hit with at Benet practices and throughout the year.

"It's great when you have someone of a similar level to hit with at any time," Hand said. "It's nice to have a built-in partner. That has helped both of them at practice because their games are complementary. They can work on things together that move their games forward. They're good sparring partners."

Leah is more experienced and she hits with more power. She's also more laid back on the court.

"Leah really bangs the ball and she's more consistent," Hand said. "She has an unreturnable shot. Coco is more of a finesse player and she moves the ball around a lot. Also Leah is more even-keeled. Her highs aren't as high and her lows not as low. Coco is more demonstrative."

"When Leah loses a point it doesn't bother her, she just forgets about it." Coco said. "But for me it's hard to play 'no-memory' tennis. But I'm finding that the more you play the more positive you can be."

According to both Leah and Hand, Coco has made great strides this year.

"I'm so proud of her," Leah said. "She's hitting the ball a lot harder this year, and she's got a good attitude, strong strokes and good fundamentals."

Hand believes Coco has matured a lot over the course of the season.

"She's starting to assert herself more within the team," he said. "And while she's respectful of the upperclassmen, she's quietly starting to assume her sister's leadership role for next year. She's also finding ways to handle the pressure in big matches and that was apparent at sectionals."

Leah, who finished top 32 at state last year, has also made great strides this year.

"She's the same player, just stronger and more consistent," Hand said. "She's exhibited more patience and she has a much better understanding of the game. She can now just let the match happen and make adjustments along the way."

"I've been trying to focus on my first-serve percentage," Leah said. "Getting the serve in with pace and spin and keeping it consistent."

Everyone acknowledges that Leah is the more serious of the two and that Coco is more of a comedian.

"She can be the comic relief on the team," Leah said. "After a tough match that doesn't go our way she'll usually make a comment to loosen people up."

Hand believes Coco is capable of winning at least three matches at state and he believes that Leah can go further than she did last year.

"This was an amazing season," Leah said. "And it was great to finish it off with both of us qualifying for state."

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