Jacobs freshman Chloe Siegfort missed the first half of the high school girls tennis season after suffering a fractured right fibula on June 23 in a United States Tennis Association tournament.
Siegfort rehabbed in a boot in hopes of making it back for the final portion of her first high school season. Since returning at the end of September, Siegfort has been nothing short of sensational.
Siegfort won the Fox Valley Conference championship at No. 1 singles, beating Huntley sophomore Ruhi Gulati, 6-0, 6-1, in the title match. The Golden Eagles freshman continued a stellar run at the Class 2A Cary-Grove Sectional, finishing runner-up to Barrington's Madeline Hills, 6-3, 6-2, on Saturday.
Now, Siegfort will look to continue a long postseason run at the Class 2A state tournament, which starts Thursday. Gulati, who placed third at sectionals, will join Siegfort and is making her second straight appearance.
Siegfort entered her first season as the No. 9-ranked player in Illinois in the class of 2023, according to the Tennis Recruiting Network.
"She’s probably going to be one of the players to watch for (the next three years)," Jacobs coach Jon Betts said. "She could make a deep run. When she’s on her game, she’s really tough to play against."
Jacobs' Lindsay Cunningham and Isha Desai, the FVC champions at No. 1 doubles, and Cary-Grove's Karina Los and Alina Krembuszewski also will play at the 2A tournament. Cunningham went to state in singles as a sophomore, and Los and Krembuszewski are going for the second straight year.
Betts said Siegfort is still "about a half-step slower," but he's excited to see what she can do at state.
"She’s still getting taped, just because the recovery leg is weaker," Betts said. "She’s not moving around as well as she’s capable of, but I think she's confident on the court. That's the one thing I was most worried about. She's moving aggressively."
It took some time for Siegfort, who is 16-5, to feel comfortable again.
"She had some tough matches early against players who she's been competitive with throughout the years," Betts said. "She was losing in ways she wasn’t used to, so we kind of had to get her to understand that she’s still in the recovery phase while those other players have been playing nonstop all year.
"She’s on the right path and peaking at the right time now. We’re thrilled she's back and getting back to her game."
Cunningham switched to doubles for the first time this season after playing at the No. 1 singles spot for the Eagles the past two seasons. Betts said the pairing of Cunningham and Desai was not one he considered at first.
"We experimented with quite a few different pairings," Betts said. "After putting the two of them together and seeing how well they played together from the start, the first doubles spot was all theirs."
"They're two of the most coachable and high character players I’ve had the privilege of coaching. Both are even-keeled on the court. They’re extremely supporting, and they're willing to work on areas they know need improving. They're leaders and have had a huge impact on our program."
In Class 1A, Woodstock North senor Aly Cullotta is making her fourth straight state appearance (third in singles).
Cullotta helped lead the Thunder to a historic season. After winning its last 22 dual meets, North won its first sectional championship in school history. It was Cullotta's 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 win against Grayslake Central's Karishma Bhalla in the third-place single match that gave North the championship.
Cullotta has made the longest postseason run of any local player in each of the past two seasons. She enters the postseason with a 25-2 record and is seeded for the first time.
"She believes she can be at that elite level in our area and the entire state," North coach Bart Zadlo said. "I wouldn't put anything past Aly. I think she's going to surprise some people this year and really show the player that she's become, which is a dangerous player."
Also going in 1A is Johnsburg's doubles team of Kamile Aleksaite and Gracie Cittadino and Richmond-Burton freshman Savannah Webb, who took second at the 1A Antioch Sectional.
Kamile Aleksaite and Gracie Cittadino went 19-1 this season with their only loss to Wauconda's Megan Hackman and Sophia Esquivel, who were 30-2. They beat the same duo for a sectional championship on Saturday.
Aleksaite is a three-time state qualifier. The past two years, she was paired with 2019 graduate Abbie Cittadino, Gracie's older sister. Aleksaite has taken on a bigger role at the net her senior year, while Gracie Cittadino has made the adjustment from singles to doubles.
"I'm hoping they can ride the wave," Skyhawks coach Sean Stochl said. "They’re two people that are very competitive and very interpersonal. They don’t really get out and express their emotions. I think it’s just a little perfect storm for them."
IHSA state draws
(First round begins at 8 a.m. Thursday)
Aly Cullotta (Woodstock North) vs. Valeria Pozo (Sacred Heart-Griffin) at Buffalo Grove
Savannah Webb (Richmond-Burton) vs. Claudia Bilkey (Vernon Hills) at Palatine
Kamile Aleksaite and Gracie Cittadino (Johnsburg) vs. Bre Nesler and Kelby Weber (Herrin) at Prospect
Chloe Siegfort (Jacobs) vs. Lauren Legardy (Homewood-Flossmoor) at Barrington
Ruhi Gulati (Huntley) vs. Ivvy Hicks (St. Ignatius) at Elk Grove
Lindsay Cunningham and Isha Desai (Jacobs) vs. Nikki Baerson and Lara Pick (Glenbrook North) at Conant
Karina Los and Alina Krembuszewski (Cary-Grove) vs. Maya Goyal and Evie Tsokolas (St. Ignatius) at Rolling Meadows