Nelle Youel won't allow herself to think about earning a berth in the U.S. Open. Not yet at least.
But the former Crystal Lake Central tennis player is a step closer to qualifying for the prestigious event. Youel knocked off Wake Forest's Kasey Gardiner in straight sets Monday at the U.S. Open National Playoffs Midwest Sectional at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.
Youel, who plays at Northern Illinois, will face Syracuse's Maddie Kobelt in Tuesday's championship final. The winners of the 13 sectional events advance to the U.S. Open National Playoffs.
"[The U.S. Open] kind of seems so far in the distance," Youel said. "It's still really cool to be here and to be winning some matches. I just want to take another step [Tuesday]."
Youel became the first NIU player in 11 years to earn All-Mid-American Conference first-team honors after a year when she set a school record for single-season victories. Youel, a sophomore at NIU, played No. 1 singles and doubles for the Huskies and finished the season with 50 victories.
Youel was 27-5 in singles and 23-7 in doubles. Youel earned MAC Player of the Week honors three times this season. Youel said her strategy for advancing to Tuesday's championship match was simple.
“Going in, I told myself to expect it to be a long day because [Gardiner] is a great player," Youel said. "I stuck to my game plan to not give her any easy points and try to wear her down, and that’s what I did."