CRYSTAL LAKE – It couldn’t have gotten much closer in the team competition at the Fox Valley Conference girls tennis tournament Saturday.
A single point separated first and second and second and third places. Prairie Ridge finished with 97 points to edge Jacobs (96) and Crystal Lake South (95). Crystal Lake Central was fourth with 80 points followed by Cary-Grove with 71.
First-year Prairie Ridge coach Jim Benson said he knew going into the tournament that every match, whether it was for first or ninth, was going to be critical.
“Seeded or unseeded, every single team can be a threat,” Benson said. “Every single point is important.”
Callie Schmit led a sweep of the singles titles by Prairie Ridge, defeating South's Julia Thome in the No. 1 singles final, 6-4, 6-3. Also winning for the Wolves were Natalie Favie at No. 2 singles and Annie Timm at No. 3.
After winning the first set, Schmit went down, 3-0, in the second set before reeling off six consecutive games to win the title.
Instead of getting more intense, Schmit decided to relax and have some fun.
“I decided not to take it too seriously and go for my shots,” Schmit said. “I thought that I had to do something.”
The win also gave Schmit some confidence heading into sectionals next week. She had lost to Thome twice this season.
“I feel like I’ve always been the underdog,” Schmit said. “This really gave me confidence. I’m just really happy.”
Benson said Schmit’s win was not only important for the first-place points but also to boost the morale of the entire team.
“This was the biggest win by far,” Benson said of Schmit. “Biggest win for the team. She’s such a good player.”
When Schmit was down, 3-0, in the second set, Benson told her to keep if out of the middle of the court on her returns.
Another big win for the Wolves came from Anna Kuechenberg and Mikaela McNally against Crystal Lake South in the No. 1 doubles semifinals. After taking the first set against Kelsey Laktash and Rachel Rasmussen, Kuechenberg and McNally dropped the second set, 6-1.
Benson said he wanted to get his team refocused during the third-set break.
“We took a walk around the track and cleared their heads,” Benson said. “We go out and (win) 6-1, in the third set.”
Evelyn Youel and Jillian Wallace won the No. 1 doubles title for Crystal Lake Central, defeating Kuechenberg and McNally, 6-1, 6-3.
After placing in the top 12 last year at state in doubles, Youel and Wallace have gone undefeated (19-0) this year in doubles. Wallace said it was hard not thinking about the upcoming state tournament, especially after the season they have had.
“Coming into conference and we were still undefeated is scary,” Wallace said. “I don’t feel the pressure yet.”
Youel said she has been trying to appreciate playing in her last season but wishes they could have played some tougher matches.
“I wish we could have been challenged a little more,” Youel said. “I think it would have made us stronger if we had lost.”
Also winning in doubles were Central's Carley George and Maddie Fox at No. 2, Kylee Fetzner and Danielle Baietto from Crystal Lake South at No. 3 and Jacobs’ Sara Elliott and Lauren Bayer at No. 4.