Julia Thome helps Crystal Lake South top Prairie Ridge

Crystal Lake South's Julia Thome returns a ball during the No. 1 singles match against Prairie Ridge's Callie Schmit on Thursday at Prairie Ridge. Thome won to help the Gators to a 5-2 victory.
Crystal Lake South's Julia Thome returns a ball during the No. 1 singles match against Prairie Ridge's Callie Schmit on Thursday at Prairie Ridge. Thome won to help the Gators to a 5-2 victory.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Even after a 6-2, 6-2 win two weeks ago, Crystal Lake South’s Julia Thome was expecting a close match from Prairie Ridge’s Callie Schmit.

Thome defeated Schmit at the Fremd Invitational Sept. 14 but knew Schmit was coming off a big win against Jacobs on Tuesday.

“I was expecting a really tough match,” Thome said. “[Schmit] was playing really well.”

Thome did get the win Thursday, but the, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) score justified her concern. It was a match either player could have won, she said.

“We were pretty even,” Thome said. “It was the luck of who would miss.”

The win propelled the Gators to a 5-2 win and gives them the upper hand in the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division race. South improved to 4-0 in division play and handed the Wolves (3-1) their first loss.

Thome was able to take advantage of some short balls from Schmit and consistently hit winners to the short corners. That shot and taking advantage of opportunities is something Thome learned from her father Fred.  

“[My dad] always tells me when it’s there, to go for it,” Thome said. “If I would get a short ball, I would go for it.”

Gators coach Don Nead said Thome’s match was exactly what he expected because he knew what a battler Schmit was.

“[Schmit] just doesn’t quit,” Nead said. “It’s not over till the last point.”

Moving to No. 1 singles this year has been an adjustment for Thome after playing No. 2 behind her sister Marisa for three years.

“It’s been different than (No.) 2 singles,” Julia Thome said. “I knew it would be tough, but some of the matches have been really tough. It’s kind of exciting.”   

The win also likely will earn Julia Thome a No. 1 seed at the upcoming FVC Meet. She lost to Crystal Lake Central’s Evelyn Youel on Tuesday, but Youel will likely move back to No. 1 doubles for the postseason tournaments.

South swept the four doubles matches to seal the win. Kelsey Laktash and Rachel Rasmussen at No. 1 doubles, Jacqueline Boorom and Hannah Rakofsky (No. 2), Danielle Baietto and Kylee Fetzner (No. 3) and Kristina Smithana and Ekta Patel (No. 4) all won for the Gators.

South trails Prairie Ridge, 24-21, in the FVC Valley points standings, but the Wolves have played one more match. With one Valley match remaining on their schedule, the Wolves could end up with a possible 31 points.

The Gators have 21 points with two matches remaining. Jacobs (3-2) has 25 points, also with one match left.

"The points are so close, I figure we might have a three-way tie," Nead said.

Wolves coach Jim Benson said it was likely South would overtake them for the division title, but he is looking ahead to the FVC Meet.

“Every single point is so important in division matches,” Benson said. “Our goal is still tomorrow. We’re still looking to get ourselves better for the conference tournament.”

Natalie Favia at No. 2 singles and Annie Timm at No. 3 singles won for the Wolves.

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