Girls tennis: Scouting Northwest
MID-SUBURBAN LEAGUEBarringtonCoach: Tracy Waters-Miller (15th season)
Outlook: The Fillies completed their 2017 season with a second-place finish in the overall MSL standings as well as in the MSL West and in the league tournament. Niyanthi Puliyala, Barbara Covek, Caroline and Kathleen Tomasian all return to the courts this season; Puliyala and Tomasian punched their first ticket to last year's state tournament. After last season, Barrington bid farewell to the standout Nidhi Jha/Sara Amano tandem (Jha was a four-time state qualifier, and Amano earned three state berths). Waters-Miller likes the depth of her team going into the upcoming season and hopes for the same match play progression as occurred last fall.
Waters-Miller says: "Never, never, never give up. (I advise the Fillies) to play happy. We've had a fun start to our season, and we have good solid players at the lower levels."
Buffalo GroveCoach: Kevin Schrammel (14th season)
Outlook: Buffalo Grove earned another MSL East title along with a third-place finish in the MSL overall last season. And Buffalo Grove sent its first player to the state tournament since 2012-13 (Dana and Lauren Goggin) when senior Kina Tamai qualified. The Buffalo Grove senior won one match at the state tournament before faltering in the backdraw. Other returning Bison players include seniors Emma Boyd, Paige Sterker, Leanne Lee, Priscilla Yuan and junior Isabel Royz. Buffalo Grove's key departures to graduation include Dasha Ignatova, Jessica Prus and Sage Kugler. Schrammel aspires to challenge Fremd and Barrington in the conference tournament.
Schrammel says: "We had some great battles at the (2017) sectional tournament and were happy to get a state qualifier in Kina Tamai It's a new season. We need to prove ourselves at every position and every match. Each day is an opportunity to get better."
ConantCoach: Dave Koleno (seventh season)
Outlook: The Cougars finished with an 8-6 record in 2017. Familiar faces return to the roster this year as senior Grace Park, who was one half of the No. 1 doubles team last fall, as well as No. 1 singles player Simren Mahajan, a sophomore. Mahajan finished with a fourth-place showing at the MSL tournament. Conant made history this year with three freshmen making the varsity team in Riya Jain, Nirali Patel and Natalia Sadon. The Cougars hope to improve upon their 2017 conference finish.
Koleno says: "Our goal is to have fun and continue to get better. We are excited to have a number of skilled freshmen join our program this year. Half of our roster is either freshmen or sophomores."
Elk GroveCoach: Kristen Fisher (10th season)
Outlook: The Grenadiers move into this season eager better their 10th-place conference showing from the prior campaign. Elk Grove's 2016 senior state qualifier Jovana Vujanic returns to the lineup.
FremdCoach: Scott Newmark (first season)
Outlook: After over two decades of Barrington winning the MSL, Fremd stood alone atop the pack last season as the Vikings netted not only their first conference title but also a sectional championship. Eight-year coach Lauren O'Donnell stepped down, and Newmark took over head coach responsibilities. He is no stranger to the team, as he was the team's assistant coach for the last four years. Although the team loses four-time state qualifiers in Kate Bodensteiner and Julia Smiarowska, senior Diya Matta returns to the team after winning a sectional championship in singles and going 3-2 in the state tournament. Also back in action are two keys from last season, sophomore Kyra Emmanouilidis (No. 2 singles) and junior Kellie Ha (doubles). Newmark hopes his group can repeat as conference champions.
Newmark says: "As an assistant coach over the last four years, it was incredible for me to have the opportunity to watch how amazing our talent has developed into an excellent team, and the credit definitely goes out to Lauren O'Donnell who did a fantastic job and whose enormous shoes are going to be hard to fill. I realize that after last year's success I want to make sure that the team stays focused on every match that we play, and not look any further than the opponents that they are playing that day."
HerseyCoach: Sharon Meintzer (ninth season)
Outlook: Hersey finished sixth in conference and third in the MSL East with an 8-10 overall record last season. Sydney Hemenway returns as a junior after posting a third-place finish in the MSL tournament. Last year was challenging for the Huskies due to a roster of mainly underclassmen; now, however, the same group has another season of varsity play under their belt and looks ready to compete. The arrival of newcomer Natalie Osiecki will bolster the effort. Meintzer hopes to compete for the MSL East title this year.
Meintzer says: "Our on-court vibe will determine the outcome of every match. We read the 'Energy Bus' by Jon Gordon during the off-season to help us reset and prepare for 2018. All our players were on the bus for the ride this summer, to help examine how important each passenger (teammate) is. So in 2018, we will fuel the ride with positive energy."
Hoffman EstatesCoach: Kenneth Harris (second season)
Outlook: Coming into a 2017 season with a lot of young talent, the Hawks look to build on another year of experience under coach Harris, with senior Parkruti Pate returning to the team.
PalatineCoach: Christy Azriel (second season)
Outlook: The Pirates' state qualifier from last season, Kanae Kawai, has moved on to another endeavor as the No. 1 singles player's family moved back to Japan. In the 2017 installment of the MSL tournament, Palatine took fourth place. Senior Katelynn Spurck moves to No. 1 singles a year after she took third in the conference tournament at No. 2 singles. Spurck is beginning her final season, where she has been at the varsity level in as many years. Palatine is also led by the No. 1 senior pair of Leah Bradley and Viktoria Janotkova. With 7 of 11 slots on the team occupied by seniors, coach Azriel expects these fourth-year players to lead by example and support their less-experienced teammates.
Azriel says: "We a great turnout for our summer camp. We also had several girls playing additional tennis outside of summer camp, through leagues and private instruction. If our team continues to be dedicated in practice, we will succeed in match and tournament play. I'm looking forward to watching the success of both our seniors and our underclassmen. We are looking to compete in the conference tournament and finish in the top five."
ProspectCoach: Mike McColaugh (eighth season)
Outlook: The Knights lost seven players from last year's fifth-place showing in the MSL tournament. Prospect's conference medalists -- Ellery Whitebloom and Megan McNally (third-place finishers at No. 1 doubles and No. 3 singles, respectively) return to the roster as seniors along with classmates Lexi Gravagna and Alice Getmanchuk. The Knights have four starting underclassmen (one sophomore, three freshmen). McColaugh seeks an upward trajectory to his team's skill level throughout the season as he hopes to be in position to play for the MSL East title.
McColaugh says: "While it will be difficult to replace the senior leadership and experience of 2017's team, we are extremely excited and optimistic about the infusion of young talent to our varsity squad," McColaugh said. "Overall we think this may be the most competitive and athletic group of girls we've had in some time. We hope our young team will be battle-tested and ready to compete in the MSL and the postseason."
Rolling MeadowsCoach: Jim Gumz (36th season)
Outlook: With four returning starters, plus two freshmen and five players moved up from the junior varsity team, Rolling Meadows' lineup will have plenty of experimentation in the early going, especially in doubles. The Mustangs were competitive last season, finishing eighth in the MSL tourney -- but seven seniors from that squad have graduated. Gumz hopes this year's group can reverse the trend of dropping close matches and play its best tennis toward season's end.
Gumz says: "We have told our players to treat the season as a journey, not a destination. We are working each day on improving our tennis skills. This is one of the deepest MSL conferences I have seen in years."
SchaumburgCoach: Ari Kazan
Outlook: Kazan heads into his first season at the helm with the Saxons. A Buffalo Grove alum, Kazan has been embraced by his new program, which hopes to improve on a 10th-place finish in last season's conference tournament. The Saxons are showcasing a lineup that features an abundance of juniors. The players leading the team on and off the court include senior Nur Sucu, junior Rhea Arora and freshman Emma Tatar.
Kazan says: "This year's Saxon Tennis program is anticipating a great deal of growth at all levels. With the raw talent that these players have, and the focus they bring to the courts, we've already experienced significant improvements in our game. There is great promise for the players this season and beyond, and it's a privilege and an honor to be coaching this great group of ladies."
WheelingCoach: Sandrine Chomoreau (second season)
Outlook: Meghan Shukla returns to the lineup with another year of varsity experience and plenty of senior teammates, and Jackie Aguero joins the Wildcats at singles to bolster the team as a freshman. Coach Chomoreau is aiming for increased stamina from all her players to help with extended matches.
Chomoreau says: "We look to have a higher level of consistency in all of our strokes. We must play closer matches with our rivals and continue practicing excellent sportsmanship, on and off the court. Take risks, learn from your mistakes and play like it's your last day."
WEST SUBURBAN GOLDLeydenCoach: Bob Smith (20th season)
Outlook: Leyden posted its best season in over 30 years in 2017. Three-year varsity member Julia Kostadinova and two-year members Emily Klepacki, Evelyn Canelo, Macy Michoroczyk are among the team leaders, but the team will be without departed seniors Melissa Salgado, Dana Villamena, Cora Bak, Summer Sewel, Camilla Mastela and state qualifier Jessica Minkov.
Smith says: "This is a rebuilding year, with a young team of only two varsity players who are seniors," Smith said. "We're looking for growth from all players this year."
CENTRAL SUBURBAN NORTHMaine WestCoach: Mike Murin (third season)
Outlook: The Warriors saw great improvement last season, as their victory total improved by 6 wins in 2017 from 2016. Murin is looking to four-year varsity player Maja Kozerski and three-year players Abigail Milovancevic and Diane Nguyen to see if the Warriors can maintain their improvement trend. He says this year's team has added maturity and considerable confidence.
Murin says: "Our players are working extremely hard on honing their skills and learning more strategies to employ in matches. They love the game and are looking forward to playing to the best of their ability."
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLICSt. ViatorCoach: Amy Ritchie (third season)
Outlook: For the first time in many years, the Lions were represented by state qualifying pairs Patricia Dizon/Greta Zimmerman and Robyn Teraji/Emma Zajac last season. Dizon/Zimmerman, who won three matches in the 1A tourney, and Teraji have now graduated. Zajac is back for her third varsity season and will serve as team captain. Other key returning players include seniors Kelsey Napoleon, Maggie Doherty and junior Tess McLaughlin. Ritchie expects the Lions to finish in the top half of the ESCC.
Ritchie says: "My expectations for this team are to work hard, using an arsenal of shots and strategies to take our opponents out of their comfort zones. What we lack in power, we will make up in placement. The Lions are more than just a group of tennis players. We are a family and work as a unit to bring our very best every match.