Crystal Lake Central senior Jenna Wallace was not certain she would attract interest from an NCAA Division I school for her tennis abilities.
Then Wallace utilized some networking skills to help open a door. She contacted Jim Capalbo, a Central graduate and assistant coach at Western Illinois University. Capalbo previously worked summers for Wallace’s grandfather at Crystal Lake Country Club, teaching lessons to young players.
“I told him to put in the good word for me,” Wallace said. “Before I knew it, I was visiting the school and meeting the girls on the team.”
And just after her high school season finished, Wallace received and accepted WIU’s offer. She signed her NCAA national letter of intent this month and will attend Western on scholarship next year.
“I thought I could play an intense level at a D-II or a D-III school,” Wallace said. “That’s where I was looking until Western gave me the opportunity.”
Capalbo played there and stayed in Macomb as an assistant on coach Chris Kane’s staff. Capalbo was well ahead of Wallace at Central, but her grandfather, Crystal Lake South coach Don Nead, knew Capalbo well from summers at the country club.
Wallace was born into a tennis family. Nead coached at Crystal Lake Community previous to South opening (in the fall of 1978) and has been at South with boys or girls tennis ever since. Julie Wallace, Jenna’s mother, played at Central.
“I had a racket in my hand when I was 4,” Jenna Wallace said. “I started thinking seriously about it in the eighth grade.”
Wallace plays a lot of youth tournaments over the summer. She won the Fox Valley Conference and Cary-Grove Sectional singles titles, then won her first two matches in the state tournament.
“I got the offer right around the night of our awards ceremony,” Wallace said. “It was an emotional night because I knew I wouldn’t be playing any more high school tennis, but I would still have the opportunity to play in college.”
Honorable mentions: Richmond-Burton’s Ryne Blanton, Marian Central’s Liam Kirwan and Woodstock North’s Ryan Wade were selected as honorable mention picks to the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association All-State teams.
Blanton, a two-way lineman, was selected in Class 4A. Kirwan, a defensive end, and Wade, who played fullback and linebacker, were named in Class 5A.
For a list of local players named to the IHSFCA Academic All-State team, see Fine Print on page C5.
Albright commits: Huntley senior infielder Tyler Albright has committed to play baseball next year at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines.
Albright was a reserve for the Red Raiders last season and hit .300 with six RBIs in 17 games.
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.