Girls tennis: Tri-Cities teams return to court
If anything went wrong for St. Charles East's first doubles team Hannah Chapman and Megan Conroy Saturday in a season-opening match with Geneva -- and not much did -- it didn't take long for the seniors to find a new perspective.
"We are grateful that we can play even though other sports can't," Chapman said. "It's really fun to be back with our teammates. Even with the masks it's still just a great experience."
Masks were definitely everywhere to be found Saturday morning at both St. Charles East and St. Charles North, which took turns hosting Geneva and Batavia in a Tri-Cities Open.
Spectators, however, were not. It's district policy for the St. Charles schools not to allow spectators while both Batavia and Geneva will have them for their home matches.
A few fans did watch from their cars in the St. Charles East parking lot. They saw the Saints win every match against Geneva including Chapman and Conroy, who won 6-0, 6-0.
"That was a good start," Conroy said. "I'm glad we are all back and are able to play."
Doubles teams were given two balls they could serve. They weren't allowed to touch the other team's tennis balls, instead rolling the ball back with their racket, and they wore masks during changeovers.
Geneva had 90 players come out for tennis, a significant increase according to coach Zach Evans. It included several volleyball players whose season was moved to the spring.
"I'm glad we were able to put this together because it's been a pretty rough summer for everybody," Evans said. "The number of comments we've got from parents has all been extremely positive."
Batavia was the big winner on the day, taking all of its varsity and JV matches at St. Charles North and then defeating St. Charles East, 8-1. Coach Brad Nelson liked the way his first and third doubles teams, Leah Puffin and Bella Lins and Lindsay Hupach and Kailey Durso, respectively, rebounded from shaky first sets to win at North. Alex Klein, Sarah Huck and Druthi Daggubak won first through third singles.
"The toughest adjustment is playing somebody different," Nelson said. "We had a couple weeks of summer camp but some girls this is the first they hit since last October. Thankfully we have a few that play year round but even the winter programs ended a little prematurely."
The four teams will meet again later this season in dual matches. Without the bigger Saturday invitationals, those duals become more important.
Then again, what's important this fall is much different from past seasons.
"Everyone is just excited to play," Saints coach Matt Bulman said. "Even the coaches we have big smiles under our masks because we are just happy to see each other. It's a little ray of sunshine in this terrible COVID-ness we all have. Kids are having fun. That's what really matters."