Softball: Palatine's Huff, Barrington's Peterson best of the best
For the past two years, Grace Huff and Kendall Peterson knew they were going to be future teammates for Northwestern's well-established softball program.
But in high school, they played on different teams in the same Mid-Suburban League West Division -- Huff for Palatine, Peterson for Barrington.
That meant they faced each other on more than one occasion.
"I remember every time we played Barrington, there seemed to be two outs and Kendall would be up and she'd get a hit," Huff said. "I was like happy-mad. You're happy that your future teammate is doing well but then your mad because right now she is your competition and she's getting on base."
Peterson couldn't have agreed more.
"That's (happy-mad) the best way to describe it," Peterson said. "I remember whenever we played each other, I would always be so intense and into the game. I wanted to say hi to Grace but I was just so focused on trying to beat Palatine. We had a friendship but the game was competitive. Grace described it well."
And Huff described the future well.
"Now we can work together," she said.
There is no doubt you'll find two players who worked harder on their games than Huff and Peterson, who also happened to be their school's Female Athlete of the Year.
Their amazing four-year careers have made them the 2019 Daily Herald All-Area Softball Team Captains.
The duo's history dates back to facing each other in travel ball and attending the same Northwestern softball camp while in middle school.
"I had heard about their camp (Northwestern), so I wanted to try it and work on my game," Huff said. "I went to the camp and I felt right at home. I wanted to keep going there. Now I'm lucky to call it my home for the next four years."
"I was interested in improving my skills, so my dad (Barrington softball coach Perry Peterson) told me about the Northwestern camp," Kendall Peterson said. "That got me really interested in it and the rest is history.
Huff and Peterson made plenty in their respective programs.
Huff's 257 career hits placed her fourth in the IHSA record books. Her 75 RBI rank 14th for a single season and her 184 career RBI rank 18th in Illinois history.
Huff batted .683, good for 11th for a single season according to the IHSA website, and her career average of .580 ranks 15th.
Peterson hit safely in 35 straight games for the Fillies, a school record, along with her .571 batting average, .639 on-base percentage, .580 average with runners in scoring position and 1.114 slugging percentage that included 18 doubles, 13 home runs and 53 RBI.
Career-wise, Peterson finished at .441, tying the school record of .441 also held by 2004 graduate Erin Lernihan.
"Grace is very passionate about the game and she knows how to fire up her team," Peterson said. "And she brings the juice."
"Kendall's greatest strength is her competitiveness," Huff said. "When she gets on the field, you definitely have to bring your game and if you don't, you will get beat by her because she is so strong."
Suffice to say, Northwestern is getting two of the brightest prospects the MSL has sent off to the collegiate ranks.
And who would know better than a former Wildcats softball standout. Palatine coach Nicole Pauly Capalbo starred for current Northwestern coaches Kate and Caryl Drohan.
"Kate and Caryl do an amazing job of developing the entire student-athlete," Capalbo said. "They taught me to be the best softball player I could be, but more importantly, a great student, leader, teammate, daughter, friends, coach and strong women. I'm excited for Grace and Kendall to join our Cat family."
Huff plans to study biomedical engineering while Peterson is headed into the communications field.
So what advice does the former Wildcat offer the future student-athletes?
"Enjoy the process," Capalbo said. "Always enjoy the process, be a great teammate and don't take any moment for granted."
You can bet Huff or Peterson never did during their prep careers.
They've succeeded to the highest level of high school play and each helped their respective teams to Class 4A third-place finishes the past two seasons (Barrington in 2017 and Palatine in 2018).
"Grace and Kendall's dedication to the sport is unmatched and their production is pretty remarkable," said Perry Peterson. "They've earned everything they've received.
"New challenges lie ahead as they both head to Northwestern as teammates this fall. Northwestern is the place to be in the Big Ten in 2020. Kate and Caryl have the Wildcats playing at such an outstanding level that anything is possible going forward."