LAKE VILLA — When Libertyville girls tennis doubles players Callie Klein and Dani Blaser think and act strategically, success follows.
During a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Warren’s Mikayla Schultz and Megan Waterhouse in a third-place match at the North Suburban Conference tournament on Saturday, Klein and Blaser trailed 3-4 in the first set. Between games, they consulted with coach Dan Kiernan and talked to each other.
Soon, the match’s fortunes began to turn.
“We planned out where we were going to hit and what would happen later in the point if we set it up,” Klein said. “We hit to their weakness.”
“We hit to the girls’ backhand rather than their forehand,” Blaser said
The result of the applied strategies was a sweep of the set’s final three games. Then the two sophomores wrapped up the third-place trophy.
This is year two for their pairing. Midway through the 2013 season, Kiernan formed the partnership as the Wildcats’ No. 2 team behind No. 1 Madeline Wagner and Aleksandra Grabowski.
“They are a really consistent team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” Kiernan said. “They could be really good singles players on their own. Chemistry-wise, they are very good together.”
At 5-foot-9 with long arms, Blaser covers so much ground she’s earned a nickname for her form on overheads.
“She’s ‘the spider’ as she jumps in the air on overheads,” Klein said. “One day we were like, ‘You did the spider! You did the spider!’ It’s kind of funny.’”
It’s not funny for opponents when Blaser’s long limbs allow her to close off shot lanes above the net. That prevents Klein from having to chase balls deep into alleys.
Victories over teams from Lake Forest, Highland Park and Glenbrook North this season are signs the two are a potential state tournament team. Their high school success followed a summer playing together in USTA tournaments in Illinois and in Wisconsin.
“It helped us play together as one,” Klein said. “We know what each other are going to do.”
“We are pretty in sync with each other now that we’ve had all this time,” Blaser said
Seeded in four of the five events at the NSC tournament, Libertyville’s overall depth lifted it to a fourth-place finish. Stevenson won, followed by Lake Forest and third-place Warren.
The Wildcats’ other two doubles teams matched Klein and Blaser’s third-place trophy. The No. 2 team of Grabowski and sophomore Tanvi Patel defeated Lake Zurich’s Emily Leahy and Stephanie Johnson 6-0, 6-4 in their third-place match. At No. 3, senior Rosanna Chen and junior Gabby Struik won 6-1, 6-1 over Lake Zurich’s Maggie Hilton and Jamie Pryhuber.
In singles, Halle Roach finished in fourth place.
Sectionals begin Thursday at Highland Park. The Wildcats are in a competitive group with Lake Forest, Carmel, Deerfield and the host Giants. Klein and Blaser will be Wildcats’ top doubles team, with sights set on continuing their season.
“I mean, state is our ultimate goal,” Blaser said. “We didn’t get to go last year but we are excited. We have a good shot this year.”