Inside Boys Tennis: Jacobs' Kendrick Chong Athlete of the Week
Athlete of the Week
Chong (14-2) helped the Golden Eagles to a second-place team finish Saturday at the eight-team Maine South Invitational by going 3-0 at No. 2 singles. He dropped only nine games in the three matches in beating Niles West's Dan Weiss, York's Alex Riddle and Rolling Meadows' Prithvi Ramesh. Riddle was a doubles state qualifier last year.
Thome at the top: Crystal Lake South has another Thome at the top of its tennis lineup, but this time it's on the boys side. Freshman Nick Thome has played No. 1 singles most of the season and has compiled a 5-5 record.
His sisters, Marisa and Julia, played at the No. 1 singles spot for the Gators the past five years.
Although Thome is a seasoned tournament player, he acknowledged that playing at the top of his high school team's varsity lineup is different than USTA events. He said he has a built-in support system with his family.
"It is definitely more high pressure," Thome said of playing No. 1 singles. "[My sisters] always give me advice on how to play."
Gators coach Don Nead said Thome has played well and is learning on the job against the top players from other teams.
"[Thome's] played some real good matches, and he’s getting better every match," Nead said. "Playing that competition, I can see the improvement in his game."
Growing up watching his sisters play for South gave Thome an appreciation for what to expect. Playing at The Racket Club gave him experience watching and playing against the area's top players.
"[Thome] knew that the competition was going to be strong," Nead said. "As he gets bigger and stronger he’s going to be able to hit with them."
Bailey will be back: Johnsburg coach Rick Bailey will retire from teaching at the end of this school year but said he has accepted an invitation by the school to return as the coach for the boys and girls tennis teams. Bailey is in this 22nd year coaching the boys team and has been the girls' coach for 26 years.
This week's top meets
Prairie Ridge Invitational
9 a.m. Saturday
The Wolves host a multiteam event that includes Crystal Lake Central and Marian Central.
Prairie Ridge at Jacobs
4:30 p.m. Tuesday
This Fox Valley Conference Valley Division dual could decide the division title.
– Rob Smith