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Ottawa junior Molly Angell (left) and senior Kayla Guenther are the 2012 NewsTribune Tennis Players of the Year. The Lady Pirates’ No. 1 doubles team had the most wins in the area with a 27-12 record, won the Ottawa Sectional title and went 2-2 at the state meet. NewsTribune photo/Anthony Soufflé
OTTAWA — One time while waiting for a match to begin, Ottawa junior Molly Angell and her doubles partner Kayla Guenther had a strange moment.
“We just started singing the exact same song, the exact same part and stopped at the exact same time,” Angell said.
“And just stared at each other,” Guenther said, continuing the thought about the pair’s rendition of “Too Close.”
“It was so weird,” Angell said.
It’s one of many examples of the connection the Ottawa tennis players have with each other.
Guenther recalls a time when Angell thought she could get a lob shot, but Guenther knew it was just out of reach and was there to back her up.
There were times they’d be serving during warmups and look at each other at the same time and say, “One more, then switch.”
They just knew.
Angell and Guenther have a simple explanation for their connection. “We think we have partner telepathy,” Guenther said. “Because I know what she’s thinking and she knows what I’m thinking. It’s one of those things I know she’ll be there and she’s there.”
“Partner telepathy,” Angell repeated with a laugh. “It’s totally true.”
Because they’ve developed that connection through years of being friends and playing tennis together — and double dating — the pair had a very successful season in 2012.
“Playing together all of last year, being positive with each other and during matches really started to pay off at the end of the season,” Ottawa coach Steve Johnson said. “They did start to have a really good feel for each other. They get along pretty well on the court and off the court. I think they did develop (a partner telepathy).”
Angell and Guenther racked up more wins than anybody else in the area with a 27-12 record, went undefeated in Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division play, won the Ottawa Sectional championship and advanced farther in the state tournament than any area female players since 2007.
For all their accomplishments this season, Angell and Guenther are the 2012 NewsTribune Girls Tennis Players of the Year.
“I’d say the season went really smooth,” Angell said. “It went how we wanted it to go. I don’t think we could have asked for a better season.”
After a successful 2011 campaign in which they went 26-13 but finished second at the sectional and lost both matches at state, Angell and Guenther were out to achieve those goals this season.
They once again played tournaments together over the summer — placing in the top two in Peru, Princeton and Ottawa — and worked on their conditioning to get ready for the season.
Angell and Guenther started strong as they placed second at the Ottawa Night Light Invite and continued to play well, winning the Joliet Invite and going 5-0 in NIB 12 West play among other accomplishments.
The pair stumbled in the conference tournament with a loss to Morris sophomores Monica Davy and Leah Lines.
But Angell and Guenther bounced back a week later to accomplish their first major goal of a sectional title with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over the Morris duo, which Angell, Guenther and Johnson call the pair’s best match of the season.
At state, the Lady Pirate pair opened with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win before falling 6-0, 6-0 to a top 8 team in the second round.
Angell and Guenther won their second-round consolation match, then had their season ended in the third round of the consolation bracket.
The last time an area team reached the third round of the consolation bracket was Ottawa’s Krista Evensen and Kylie Wielgopolan in 2007.
“It makes me feel very proud and accomplished for everything we’ve worked for,” Guenther said.
Next year the pair will go their separate ways as Guenther plans to continue her career at IVCC while Angell will return for her senior season with hopes of playing singles.
But they’ll always have their partner telepathy.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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