Rolling Meadows twins Allie and Jackie Kemph have earned their third and final berth into the girls tennis state tournament, and the much-decorated seniors aim to make the most of their finale.
In addition to their state tourney appearances, the Kemph sisters have netted two sectional championships and a Mid-Suburban League doubles crown. They have every reason to believe they've saved their best tennis for last.
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Brightening their outlook headed into today's first-round state tournament action, which begins at 8 a.m. at all 12 MSL schools, is the fact that they've posted a 12-2 record against doubles teams who are in the tournament, including a 7-5, 5-7 (4-10) loss to a nationally ranked Maine South doubles team which earned a 9-16 seed.
This season has been particularly special for the Kemphs. That's partly because they've been playing their best tennis, improving their overall record to 74-22 and earning a 17-32 state tournament seed. But mostly it's because this is likely their last hurrah as a tennis tandem.
Jackie, a standout guard for the Rolling Meadows girls basketball team which played for a state title last season, says this is the end of the tennis road for her. Allie also plays basketball and says she may still play intramural tennis in her transition to college.
"The big thing is to make a memory of being (at the state tournament)," Jackie said after glancing with a smile at her sister. "We want to make it a memory so it's something special to look back on. It's our last chance for tennis."
The two began their tennis careers by starting lessons at age 9. But they only trained for two years, at which point they started to focus more on basketball. The twin tandem wouldn't return to tennis until they were freshmen in high school.
In their freshman tennis season, Jackie played at No. 1 doubles with Sara Schumaker, while Allie paired up alongside for No. 2 doubles with Abby Matayka. Rolling Meadows coach Jim Gumz decided to pair the twins up in their sophomore season.
"They are much more savvy at the tactics of playing doubles," Gumz said of the twins' maturation. "They move well at the net and know when to move, know where to be, where to serve and how to take advantage of a situation. They have been much more efficient, and that's been big for them."
In their sophomore season, the Kemph sisters posted a stellar 19-9 record and were sectional runners-up. But it was a difficult transition for the sisters.
Unlike many doubles partners, the Kemphs don't have it easy when it comes to free time. Allie and Jackie have the company of one another at school, practice and at home. Even after the completion of the tennis season, the two will not only still be reunited at home, but on the basketball court starting Nov. 4.
On the other hand, according to Gumz, the Kemphs' occasional sisterly disagreements can actually produce a beneficial flipside -- they instinctively know what the other will do on the tennis courts.
"It's been difficult because we fight sometimes," Jackie said. "We don't really get a break. But we really forget everything when we get on the court. Sophomore year was a little rough."
"We expect more from each other," Allie said. "So we fight more than we would have if we weren't sisters. But I also think we're more successful being together."
"We'll miss them playing tennis and in general on the team," Gumz said. "After the twins won conference, the twins drove over to Fremd to watch other players. They really liked the team tennis concept and I like it as well. They were the biggest fans of our other players."
Jackie, who won Gatorade player of the year honors for her basketball exploits, will play collegiately at St. Louis University; she verbally committed in July.
Allie is still unsure of her campus future. She still is deciding between Indiana, Miami University (Ohio), or possibly joining her sister in St. Louis. Both Allie and Jackie are interested in majoring in the medical program.
In the more immediate future, Allie and Jackie will face off against a Chicago Christian team on their home court at Rolling Meadows as the three-day state tournament gets going.
"We want to have fun," Allie says. "This is probably the last time we're playing doubles together. Let's try and win some."