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Senior trio ready to attack : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Senior trio ready to attack
Blount returns after state appearance

by Christine Bolin Dascher


The Oswego badminton team may be young and inexperienced at the varsity level this season, but the Panthers do have a good leader on their side in senior Sydney Blount, the team's lone state qualifier last year.

Blount was the No. 3 singles champion at the Southwest Prairie Conference tournament and was also part of the doubles duo (with Olivia Lewis) that also won in the No. 4 spot at the tournament. She was able to get out of the Naperville Central Sectional and ended up going 0-2 in the first day of the state meet.

"(Blount) has great leadership skills, she's taken on the role of a captain this year and she's a hard worker," Oswego head coach Scott Freischlag said. "Obviously, she wants to defend her conference championships and move up in the ranks. If she went undefeated in conference, that would be great."

"I'm so hoping to get back to state," Blount added. "I'm so excited for it. Even just being at state and the talent I saw and all the dedication, I'm hoping to bring back some of those strategies and ways to improve the team. Hopefully, we can get six girls there this year."

Blount is back, along with Lewis, a senior, and another Olivia - Olivia Benet, a senior who is new to varsity. Lewis and Blount may be paired up in doubles in non-conference play and/or at tournaments, but both will play singles as well.

"Olivia Lewis wants No. 1 singles, and she's battling Sydney for that spot. That's a good problem to have," Freischlag said. "Olivia Benet may be somewhere in the middle for my singles and doesn't have a doubles partner yet. We are trying to find a partner for her, but she's OK with playing singles. She's a hard worker."

These three seniors are expected to lead the Panthers, who have six new juniors and five new sophomores to varsity this year.

"(The seniors) are definitely going to make (the new players) work hard and make sure we can help them become the best they can be before we leave," Blount said.

"We are not quite as deep at the senior level, but we have a big group of sophomores and juniors and have 14 freshmen in the program, so we are growing," Freischlag added. "Starting them young, that was my big push. We need freshmen, we need freshmen's exciting to see the program get bigger and stronger and develop like that."

The new juniors are Charlotte Benstine, Cali Bonie, Alisa Meurer, Lauren Tadych and Elizabeth White. The new sophomores are Ashley Bossler, Anne Jakubowski, Trisha Nickerson, Morgan Novak and Kelsey Snodgrass. Several players have experience playing tennis in the fall season for the Panthers, so that will help.

"We have a very young team," Freischlag said. "Out of the new players, there are seven who have badminton experience and have come up through the freshmen level. Varsity is a different level, and they are going to have to understand that, but I think this group of 14 are going to do very well for me this year."

The Panthers graduated 12 seniors from last year's team that went 6-3 in dual meets overall, 4-1 in the Southwest Prairie Conference regular season duals and won the conference tournament title for the fourth straight year.

"The kids worked hard and we had a lot of good senior leadership," Freischlag said. "We had a very strong team in terms of setting goals, meeting those goals and readjusting those goals."

Just like last year, Oswego will start the season off against Wheaton North. This was scheduled to take place on Wednesday on the road (results not available at press time).

The Panthers will also be a part of Plainfield North's Doubles Invite on April 5 before starting conference play on April 7 hosting Plainfield East.

The rivalry match between Oswego and Oswego East is scheduled for April 16 and Senior Night will be against Plainfield Central on April 23.

"Conference is going to be tough this year," Freischlag said. "We are all in the same boat - not one oversees the other or is dominating the conference. We are all pretty much level until that last conference dual."

"I know a lot of the (conference) teams have almost all-senior squads, so just coming up with two returning players and a bunch of new girls might be tough, but we have great prospects," Blount added. "I'm very excited with the talent we have."

The Panthers will be hosting the conference meet this year on May 1 and 3 and the sectional (site is to be determined) will take place May 8-10.

The state meet is scheduled for May 16-17 on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

"Even though we only play 18 days, we are always looking for more," Freischlag said. "Our whole schedule is tough."

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