Young tennis group vying for spots
Photo: Third-year coach Tim Larson leads the initial days of Lady Knights tennis practices that include freshman Abby Meyer. Photo by Mike Slodki
KANELANDâ€”While eight seniors are gone from last yearâ€™s Kaneland tennis crew, the three varsity returnees all bring a game thatâ€™s been battle tested.
2010 begins with senior and three-year player Lindsay Jurcenko.
Jurcenko comes back with the most success from past rosters and finished strong, placing fourth in the No. 1 singles bracket at the final Western Sun Conference tournament.
â€œSheâ€™s got big goals for herself,â€ third-year coach Tim Larsen said last Thursday. â€œOur plan is to get as good a record as we can going into the Sectional tournament, get a nice high seed. Sheâ€™s really dedicated and has played all year.â€
Jurcenko serves in the model of upperclassmen well-versed in the Kaneland tennis system, making that part of Larsenâ€™s job worry-free.
â€œSheâ€™s very competitive. It helps to keep her centered in the middle of the match, but she has the shots and sheâ€™s confident.â€
Joining Jurcenko are juniors Maddie Limbrick and Amelia Napiorkowski.
â€œI took a big risk last year with Maddie and Amelia playing varsity singles as sophomores. They were playing a little ahead of their time. They would get frustrated sometimes, but that experience will pay off,â€ Larsen said.
In the early stages of KHS Lady Knights tennis practice, the lineup Larsen plans to take to court is still in flux with many slots open.
â€œWeâ€™re still early into practice. Iâ€™ve talked with a lot of girls that will play varsity for us, and weâ€™re going to try out a lot of doubles team members. Iâ€™m going to try and see whoâ€™s playing the best and whoâ€™s playing the best together,â€ Larsen said.
Whomever plays No. 1 doubles this season will have quite the amount to live up to, with last yearâ€™s top combo Olivia Emmanouil and Liz Webb graduated.
â€œThe No. 1 doubles team will be a team that didnâ€™t play varsity last year. Itâ€™s going to be quick learning, while the No. 3 and No. 4 doubles might be more comfortable,â€ Larsen said.
The Lady Knights will look to improve on a 4-7 dual meet record from 2009, even though only three members return and the team now has some new opponents thanks to the new Northern Illinois Big 12 conference.
â€œIâ€™ll tell you right now, I plan on winning them all,â€ Larsen said. â€œI feel very good about the ability these girls have. I think we have a shot to win every one of those dual matches in conference.â€
With the new conference volleying for the first time, the East Division includes DeKalb, Rochelle, Sycamore, Yorkville and NCIC-school Morris.
â€œI know the coaches and they know the shots I’m planning to hit, and I know the shot theyâ€™re planning to hit, and itâ€™s turned into a fun little conference between us,â€ Larsen said.
Serving against opponents in the varsity ranks will also be seniors Caiti Ellefsen, Megan Hanlon and Sierra Cruz, juniors Jordyn Withey, Maria Rossi, Stephanie Rosenwinkel, Sam Williams and Nikki LeBlanc and sophomore Maddy McMullen.
The Lady Knights begin 2010 against Wheaton Academy in Maple Park on Tuesday, Aug. 24, with the first conference action at Sycamore a week later.
The first ever NIB-12 conference gathering is the weekend of Friday-Saturday, Oct. 8-9 in Yorkville.