CARY – Prairie Ridge girls tennis coach Jim Benson puts a small piece of athletic tape on his players’ rackets before each match with a focus word written on it.
Benson’s word for Callie Schmit was dictate, heading into the singles championship Saturday at the Cary-Grove Sectional against Crystal Lake South’s Julia Thome.
In a rematch of the Fox Valley Conference No. 1 singles championship a week ago, Schmit defeated Thome, 7-5, 6-2. The win evened the season’s series at 2-2. Thome won twice against Schmit during the season and Schmit won the conference and sectional tournaments.
“Every single time I play Julia, I know it’s going to be tough,” Schmit said.
Benson wanted Schmit to be aggressive against Thome and not prolong points with conservative, consistent play. He knew Thome’s ability to hit winners, particularly from the middle of the court, could be the difference in the match.
“Any time that we have played Julia, you go into the match a little nervous,” Benson said. “[Thome’s] got great control. She’s a fighter.”
The piece of tape was just a reminder.
“Anytime you get nervous or worked up, look at that piece of tape,” Benson said.
Schmit’s win also secured the Wolves a sectional team championship with 25 points. Crystal Lake South and Crystal Lake Central tied for second with 22 points.
Benson knew a win by Schmit would give them the title but was sure to keep that information from her until after the match. Schmit appreciated being ignorant of the match’s significance.
“I was just playing with no pressure,” Schmit said. “If I knew it was the deciding match, I don’t know how I would have played.”
Also qualifying in singles were Woodstock’s Ana Fedmasu, who placed third, and the Wolves’ Natalie Favia, who was fourth. It was the third time Favia, a junior, has qualified for state. She qualified the past two years in doubles with two different partners.
Crystal Lake Central’s Evelyn Youel and Jillian Wallace won the doubles championship, giving up just six games in their four matches. In the championship match, they defeated Crystal Lake South’s Kelsey Laktash and Rachel Rasmussen, 6-1, 6-3.
Laktash, and then partner Rachel Siemon, defeated Youel and Wallace in last year’s sectional doubles final.
“I’m sure it was in both of our minds . . . and not to let it happen again,” Youel said.
The loss last year also likely knocked Youel and Wallace out of seeding contention at state, something that is not expected to happen again. They are undefeated this season and placed in the top-12 last year at state.
“Hopefully we’ll get a pretty good seed,” Wallace said. “I think we deserve it.”
For now, all they can do is wait until the seeds and bracket pairings are announced Tuesday.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Youel said. “We’ve done what we can do.”
Also qualifying in doubles were Prairie Ridge’s Anna Kuechenberg and Mikaela McNally in third place and Crystal Lake Central’s Maddie Fox and Carley George. It was the first time McNally, Fox and George qualified for state.
Huntley Sectional: Jacobs’ Ana Kosy won the singles championship, defeating Elgin’s Dahlia Keonavongsa, 6-4, 6-3, in the finals to lead the Golden Eagles to a team title with 22 points.
Huntley’s Tamara Funke and Jantzen Rosales won the doubles title, defeating South Elgin’s Corinne Hildebrandt and Fiona McCullough, 6-4, 6-1 in the finals.
Hampshire’s Hannah Hougland was third in singles and Monica Patthana and Julie Schreiner were fourth in doubles for the Whip-Purs, who placed second with 17 points.
Antioch Sectional: Johnsburg’s Erika Szramek and Rachael Molidor lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Catherine Orfanos and Margaux Miller from Lake Forest. The Skyhawks placed fourth with eight points. Lake Forest won with 36.
Stevenson Sectional: McHenry’s Emeris Raquel and Svenja Tonn lost in the doubles quarterfinals to Stevenson’s Kaylin Dong and Michelle Tulchinskaya, who placed second. The Warriors place fifth with eight points. Stevenson won with 35.