At IHSA tennis sectionals, players typically know by the end of the first day whether they are going to state.
What impressed Johnsburg coach Emily Chrisman about the Skyhawks’ No. 1 doubles pair, Abbie Cittadino and Kamile Aleksaite, was that they kept the energy up on Day 2. After qualifying for state Friday at the Class 1A Antioch Sectional, Cittadino and Aleksaite turned around and won the sectional Saturday.
They were the only McHenry County athletes to win a sectional crown in singles or doubles. Now they look to carry that success to state, which begins Thursday at multiple locations throughout the northern suburbs.
They are two of 10 local athletes who qualified for state.
“After Friday, sometimes the motivation goes down [at sectionals],” Chrisman said. “But they said, ‘No, we’re going to win it.’ They actually came out and played. They didn’t just say, ‘We’re already going to state.’”
Cittadino and Aleksaite are returning state qualifiers. A year ago, they won their first match in the Class 1A tournament before losing their next two.
This year, they come into state with a better handle of what to expect, and “less nerves,” Chrisman said.
“I just feel like they work well together,” Chrisman said. “They communicate really well. If you watch from the outside, you would think that they weren’t being serious, but that’s the way that they diffuse the stress. They are very even keel.”
Woodstock North junior Aly Cullotta is another returning state qualifier in Class 1A. She finished third in the Antioch Sectional singles bracket. Cullotta reached Day 2 at the state tournament last year and went 3-2 overall at state.
“Ever since she’s taken the reins of our No. 1 singles, I’ve seen confidence grow in Aly,” North coach Bart Zadlo said last week. “I know that confidence is going to continue to blossom. I know she has high expectations on herself.”
In Class 2A, Cary-Grove qualified three athletes: Bethany Marshall in singles, and Alina Krembuszewski and Karina Los in doubles.
Marshall almost won a sectional title in singles, losing the championship match, 7-6 (7-0), 6-4, against Barrington’s Niyanthi Puliyala. Marshall also is a returning state qualifier.
C-G coach Therese Youel said Marshall “was a little bit of a deer in the headlights” as a junior at state last year. She also was suffering from the flu. Marshall lost both of her matches at state. This year, she is hoping for better results.
“The message stays pretty much the same as any Saturday tournament,” Youel said. “You are who you are. Bring your best mental game, along with your physical game, and you’re going to be just fine.”
Crystal Lake South’s Skylar Olsen and Huntley’s Ruhi Gulati also will compete in the Class 2A singles bracket. Prairie Ridge’s Maddy Ljunggren and Kaitlyn Theil will compete in doubles.
IHSA state draws
(First round begins at 9 a.m. Thursday)
Bethany Marshall (Cary-Grove) vs. Sienna Lopez (Glenbard West) at Wheeling
Skylar Olsen (Crystal Lake South) vs. Emma Bhote (New Trier) at Schaumburg
Ruhi Gulati (Huntley) vs. Kathryn Treiber (Hinsdale Central) at Wheeling
Alina Krembuszewski and Karina Los (Cary-Grove) vs. Emma Rimkunas and Kara Rimkunas (Lincoln-Way Central) at Fremd
Maddy Ljunggren and Kaitlyn Theil (Prairie Ridge) vs. Emily Dale and Lily Bhote (New Trier) at Barrington
Aly Cullotta (Woodstock North) vs. Maria Rivas (Chicago Lake View) at Hoffman Estates
Kamile Aleksaite and Abbie Cittadino (Johnsburg) vs. Kaitlyn Younger and Makinley Tonn (Benton) at Rolling Meadows