No surprises in Wolves' championship : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|No surprises in Wolves' championship|
|After undefeated dual finish, Oswego East girls' tennis team wins title |
|by Christine Bolin Dascher|
The Oswego East girls' tennis team not only won the Southwest Prairie Conference undefeated this season, but the Wolves won the conference tournament, which took place last Friday and Saturday.
"There were chances for us to fall short, and we had to be successful in certain situations in order to win," Oswego East head coach Pete Conrad said. "Oswego has so much depth, and Plainfield North is up there too, so all I was hoping for was consistent play. We played 21 matches and won 19, so we won when we needed to."
Oswego East finished with 30.5 points from the dual meet season and tournament play. Rival Oswego placed second overall with 27 points. The event was hosted by Minooka.
"Unfortunately, (second place) was not a surprise," Oswego head coach Kate Belke said. "All the girls played well on Friday and put themselves in great positions. Everyone made it to the winner's bracket, which is an improvement over the last couple years. I told them going into Saturday that points were close and the team with four championships was going to win and we had six opportunities.
"On Saturday, we just couldn't finish. There is not one thing I can point to and say, 'I wish we would have...' (because) our opponents just played better and we couldn't step up. We finished with 27 points overall, so two or three matches swinging our way on Saturday would have made the difference," Bekle continued.
Plainfield North placed third, followed by Plainfield Central, Minooka, Plainfield East, Plainfield South and Romeoville.
Oswego East senior Sajela Harlow won first place at No. 1 singles. This was her second straight season undefeated in conference play and now has a 25-2 overall record this year.
Harlow received a bye in the first round, and in second round, she won 6-0, 6-0 over her opponent from Plainfield Central. She defeated Oswego senior Courtney Gooch in the finals, 6-2, 6-2.
"(Sajela) did what she had to do to win, and did a nice job," Conrad said. "Courtney played great, but Sajela is just a great competitor."
To get to the finals, Gooch beat her opponent from Minooka (6-1, 6-0) and Plainfield North (6-1, 6-3).
Oswego East sophomore Jaiere Harlow won first overall at No. 2 singles. Like her older sister, she finished undefeated against conference opponents this year and ended up 25-2 overall. She topped Oswego junior Sara Lemerman in the finals, 6-1, 6-1.
"I talked with both Courtney and Sara before they went out, and even though they knew what was coming, it is still hard to prepare for," Belke said of the Harlow sisters. "They both had long rallies and good matches, but the constant competition, support and advice the Harlow sisters can give each other is hard to overcome."
To get to the title match, Lemerman defeated Romeoville (6-1, 6-4) and Plainfield North (6-0, 6-0). Jaiere Harlow topped Minooka (6-0, 6-0) and Plainfield Central (6-0, 6-1).
"She was the first one off the courts on both Friday and Saturday," Conrad said of Jaiere Harlow. "She played great players, but she's just at another level. On any other team, she'd be at No. 1 singles, but fortunately for us, her sister has that spot. She just does what she's supposed to do."
Oswego East sophomore Haley Clebanoff won at No. 3 singles against Oswego junior Alisa Meurer, 6-0, 6-2. Clebanoff got there after defeating Minooka (6-2, 6-1) and Plainfield North (7-5, 6-2).
"Haley had an amazing weekend," Conrad said. "This was the best tennis she's played all season."
Meurer reached the finals after a win over Romeoville (6-0, 6-1) and Plainfield Central (3-6, 6-1, 6-0). In the regular season, Meurer beat Clebanoff in two sets.
"Haley really stepped and threw every trick she had," Belke said. "Alisa was expecting the girl she played in the dual, but Haley was a much-improved player."
Oswego East juniors Leena Hwang and Lexi Blackmon won at No. 1 doubles and improved to 25-5 this season and also went undefeated in conference. The duo topped Oswego juniors Cali Bonie and Laura Dombkowski, 6-0, 6-1. To get there, Blackmon and Hwang defeated their opponents from Plainfield Central (6-1, 6-1) and Plainfield North (6-1, 6-3).
"I have them, in most scenarios, winning, and they did not disappoint," Conrad said. "There weren't too many poor shots or poor decisions by them."
Bonie and Dombkowski first topped Minooka (6-2, 6-1) and Plainfield East (7-6, 6-4 tiebreaker 7-3) to get to the finals.
"First doubles was all nerves and just couldn't find their rhythm," Belke said. "Oswego East was on, and we weren't."
Oswego East seniors Kelly Dyja and Megan Schaltegger won at No. 2 doubles after beating their opponents from Plainfield North, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Before that, they topped Plainfield East (6-3, 6-0) and Minooka (6-3, 6-2).
"There was nothing more I wanted for these two to leave their senior year as conference champs," Conrad said of Dyja and Schaltegger, who also went undefeated in conference play. "I wanted them to go out as winners. They are both four-year players, and for them to win was awesome."
Oswego's second doubles team of seniors Olivia Lewis and Sydney Blount ended up placing third after defeating Plainfield South (6-0, 6-0), lost to Plainfield North (6-1, 1-6, 6-1) but won against Minooka (6-1, 6-3).
"They battled back against Plainfield North on Friday to go three sets, but are still working on bringing their consistency and placement together," Belke said. "When they are on, they can take on anyone and have great strategic points, but have trouble stringing their strategic points together. They came back on Saturday ready to work through their strategies and played well against Minooka."
Plainfield North's duo won at No. 3 doubles over Oswego senior Courtney Licul and sophomore Annie Fish, 6-4, 6-3. To get there, the Panthers' duo beat Plainfield East (6-1, 6-0) and Minooka (6-1, 6-1).
"Courtney and Annie were very nervous to play Plainfield North again since that was their only loss in conference (in the regular season)," Belke said. "They started out well, but got thrown off by a delay that they just never recovered from. The break in momentum broke their stride."
Oswego East's duo of senior Michelle Francois and sophomore Madison Miller ended up as the consolation winners at third doubles after falling in the first round to Plainfield North (6-4, 6-4). The bounced back with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Romeoville and victory over Plainfield South (6-2, 6-3).
"They would have done great if it weren't for that tough first-round opponent," Conrad said.
Oswego's lone first-place finish happened at No. 4 doubles with juniors Loren Liskunas and Fernanda Ochoa. They defeated Oswego East freshmen Anne Carmody and Keertana Kota, 7-6, 6-3, in the finals.
To get there, Liskunas and Ochoa beat Romeoville (6-0, 6-1) and Plainfield South (6-0, 6-1).
"Loren and Fernanda have been solid all season," Belke said. "Their matches tend to be close, but when it matters, they put it all together."
To get to the finals, Carmody and Kota defeated Plainfield East (6-1, 6-1) and Minooka (7-5, 6-3).
"For two freshmen to make it to the championship match, that was great for them," Conrad said. "They played great and did what they needed to do. They have made huge steps and played excellent all year."
Next up for the Wolves and Panthers is the West Aurora Sectional, which will take place on Saturday. The seeding meeting took place on Wednesday, so seeds were not available at press time.
The teams in this sectional include Aurora Central Catholic, East Aurora, IMSA, Rosary, Waubonsie Valley, West Aurora, Kaneland, Oswego East, Oswego and Yorkville.
The Harlow sisters will represent Oswego East in singles action while Hwang and Blackmon and Dyja and Schaltegger (17-11 overall) will compete in doubles for the Wolves.
Last year, both Harlows and Hwang/Blackmon qualified out of the sectional and competed in the state tournament.
"Of course all six of our girls want to go to state, but I don't see why we can't send at least four of them," Conrad said. "We are hoping to make a big push and send all six. Anything can happen - that's why we compete."
Oswego will have Gooch and Lemerman represent the Panthers in singles action while Bonie/Dombkowski and Lewis/Blount will compete in doubles.
"The girls know they have a tough road ahead of them," Belke said. "Our sectional is strong, and most of the state qualifiers from last year are back. One of the biggest items we need to work and focus on this week is planning and reacting to our opponents. The girls are ready, and hopefully, we can learn from our tough matches last Saturday."