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La Salle-Peru senior Anna Konczak hits a ball during the La Salle-Peru Invitational last fall. Konczak is back after earning NewsTribune All-Area honors and helping the Lady Cavaliers to a 10-3 record last season. NewsTribune file photo
There will be some new faces in the area tennis scene this season as more than half of the 2013 NewsTribune All-Area Team graduated.
Below is a by the numbers breakdown of the area tennis scene.
1 Coach who has a daughter playing for him. St. Bede junior Brianna Lau decided to give up volleyball and play tennis for her father, Mike Lau.
She’ll team up with her friend and classmate Gabbie Morrow, who also left the volleyball program, to play No. 1 doubles for the Lady Bruins.
“I never put a lot of pressure on her to play tennis,” Mike Lau said. “She has very natural groundstrokes and serve. If we can get her to move her feet, she’ll be great.
“Gabbie is a fantastic athlete. She’s quick around the court. I think they make a good doubles team. It’s very new to them, but they get along — they’re best friends — and that’s half the battle with doubles teams.”
2 No. 1 singles players returning Gone are Princeton’s Jen O’Neil, the 2013 NT Girls Tennis Player of the Year, along with fellow state qualifiers Rachel Dose, of St. Bede, and Molly Angell, of Ottawa, but returning are La Salle-Peru’s Ali Kutz and Mendota’s Whitney Lewis. Kutz went 9-20 last season as a junior.
“She opened up our season (Tuesday) against Princeton in the same spot and will most likely continue at that spot this season,” L-P coach Clay Theisinger said. “While her opening match was not a win, it did show her areas of improvement and what she needs to do to get the ‘W.’ This season I anticipate a higher frequency of wins and going deeper into the postseason.
“For the past four years her best tennis began within the first few weeks of the season. Once she gets comfortable and in routine again, I think we will see some quality hitting and more wins.”
Lewis is back for her second season as the Lady Trojans’ No. 1 singles player after gaining experience as a sophomore.
“She plays a lot of summer tournaments,” MHS coach Tom Corrigan said. “I’m expecting good things from her.”
3 Years Bailey Bradish and Mariah Cavanaugh have played together The Ottawa duo is entering their third season together and second season as the Lady Pirates’ No. 1 doubles team.
Last season, the pair went 27-18 last season as juniors and were the only area players to advance to the second day of the state tournament and won three matches on the state’s biggest stage.
Bradish and Cavanaugh also won the Joliet Invitational, placed third at the Ottawa Sectional and were All-Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference.
“They’ve gotten smarter, both hit a little bit harder and they do a good job of changing what’s happening,” Ottawa coach Steve Johnson said on how the pair have improved since becoming a doubles team. “Instead of just pounding the ball, they do a good job changing the dynamic of it. I think both have become a little more aggressive. Their volleys have definitely improved quite a bit from sophomore year.”
Johnson expects another strong season from the duo.
“(I expect) maybe a couple more wins than last year,” Johnson said. “They did really well last year. I’m hoping on weekends they can finish a little higher at some of the tournaments. Whenever we play a dual, I expect them to get us started on the right foot and hopefully get a win out of them in most of our duals.
“I would hope they could make it through (to state). I know that’s their goal. They did pretty well at state last year and I’m sure they’re hoping to match what they did at least.”
10 Wins for La Salle-Peru last season. The Lady Cavaliers went 10-3 last season for their best record under Theisinger. L-P also won the NIB 12 West regular season and placed fifth overall — first among West teams — at the NIB 12 tournament.
“We are coming off the team’s first conference title since the start of the NIB 12, and fortunately we are returning the majority of our lineup,” Theisinger said. “We feel that last season is only the beginning to continued success for the girls tennis team. Our greatest strength is that we have experience and depth. We have girls who know the game and want to win.” Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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