Cary-Grove needed everything to go right at the Fox Valley Conference tournament last week.
And everything did.
“I don’t want to say we were totally surprised,” C-G coach Therese Youel said. “We had talked about the idea that it could be possible if everyone played their best ball on the same day. But the fact that they actually accomplished that – and they really did, play to your seed or even a little better in a couple of cases – it was really thrilling for the girls.”
C-G edged defending FVC champion Jacobs by one point in the team standings. The win was C-G’s first FVC tournament championship since 1981.
“That’s a really nice accomplishment for this team,” Youel said. “We’ve got some really good top players and a good supporting cast.”
Senior Bethany Marshall won the No. 1 singles bracket for the second year in a row. Kaitlin Warner finished her season unbeaten at No. 2 singles, winning the No. 2 singles bracket. Karina Los and Alina Krembuszewski won the No. 1 doubles bracket. C-G also had a victory from its No. 4 doubles team, Grace O’Malley and Olivia Schladt.
Los and Krembuszewski were the biggest surprise. They did not earn a seed (the FVC seeds the top four in each bracket). They knocked off the No. 1 seed in their first match and took out the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds along the way.
“Alina and Karina really, really rose to the occasion last weekend,” Youel said. “They were not seeded, and it was fair they were not seeded. They hadn’t deserved to be. They’d lost a lot of three-setters.”
Now C-G’s attention will turn to sectionals, which begin Friday. The entire FVC except for McHenry will compete in the Class 2A Jacobs Sectional. McHenry will compete at the Class 2A Harlem Sectional.
The top four singles players and the top four doubles teams from each sectional advance to state.
Marshall, a four-year varsity player, is C-G’s only player with state experience. She earned a trip last year as a junior.
“Bethany is one of the most level-headed tennis players I’ve seen,” Youel said. “In four years of getting to watch her, I’ve never heard her complain about an opponent. She’s just calm and she has a well-rounded game with a variety of shots she’s able to make. She’s a lot faster on her feet than you might think.”
Youel also believes Warner, C-G’s No. 2 singles player all season, could be a “secret weapon” in the sectional singles bracket.
In Class 1A, all four Kishwaukee River Conference teams and Marian Central will compete in the Antioch Sectional.
Woodstock North’s Aly Cullotta almost made it to Day 3 at the Class 1A state tournament last year, finishing 3-2 at state. She and the Thunder are fresh off a KRC title season.
“Her game is a powerful game,” North coach Bart Zadlo said. “She looks to get her opponent worn out, she works her opponent side-to-side. She’s got a strong serve, a strong return and she plays to her strengths. She is not a conservative player. She likes to go for it."
Cullotta, a junior, is 23-1 on the season.
IHSA girls tennis sectional assignments
Class 1A Antioch Sectional: Johnsburg, Marengo, Marian Central, Woodstock, Woodstock North
Class 2A Jacobs Sectional: Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South, Dundee-Crown, Jacobs, Prairie Ridge, Hampshire, Huntley
Class 2A Harlem Sectional: McHenry