Jon Betts’ Jacobs Golden Eagles finally have that elusive conference title.
Edging Prairie Ridge by five points, Jacobs won the Fox Valley championship Saturday, the program’s first conference championship since 2003.
The Eagles had been FVC runner-up six times in Betts’ 10 seasons as coach, at least twice settling for bridesmaid by one point. In 2013 Jacobs had three matches left on the court after Prairie Ridge finished, needing just one win for the conference. The Eagles lost all three. So yes, this victory was just as sweet as the post-meet ice cream celebration.
“I think to most of the players and me, it’s more of a relief than anything else,” Betts said. “The work they’ve put in, to finally be rewarded, it’s pretty big.”
Jacobs, 11-0 in conference duals, took first in three divisions.
At No. 1 singles Ashley Kosy — who placed third in 2012 and fourth in 2013 at conference — defeated Annie Timm of Prairie Ridge 6-1, 6-1. Freshman Haley Steinkamp matched her at No. 2 singles, beating Grayslake Central’s Raquel Ruiz 6-0, 6-1. Jacobs also took first at No. 3 doubles with Alexa Azcui and Katie Toomire.
No Jacobs entry finished worse than third.
“All of our players dealt with the pressure well,” Betts said.
Serving a winner
Dahlia Keonavongsa does not need to dig too deep to determine the root of her growth as a tennis player this year.
Like any tennis point, it starts with the serve.
A more reliable serve has become a weapon for the Elgin junior, who is 18-4 heading into sectionals.
She used to second-guess herself on serve, litter the court with too many double faults.
She admitted that she would just aim blindly at a spot to serve.
“I could never rely on it,” Keonavongsa said. “I was just hoping to get it in.”
Now Keonavongsa specifically picks out a target, and keeps a set routine: Take a deep breath, bounce the ball three times, extend her arm and turn her palm over, letting go at the highest point.
“She’s extending and getting a better serve,” Elgin coach Dan Charak said. “It allows her to get the ball in and it’s intimidating to opponents.”
Charak emphasizes the serve and return of serve as the two most important shots in high school tennis.
“If you do nothing but those things, you will do very well,” Charak said.
Lisa Derowski is making the most of her one year in the U.S.
Derowski, a foreign exchange student from Germany spending her sophomore year at South Elgin, placed second at No. 2 singles in the Upstate Eight Valley meet last weekend.
Derowski, who hails from Munich, is 17-4 this season. Storm coach Melissa Tuftedal didn’t even know about her new addition until second day of tryouts. This is Derowski’s only experience playing tennis for her school; in Germany youth play exclusively for clubs.
“She told me ‘I didn’t come here to play tennis, I came here to learn,’” Tuftedal related. “I told her ‘Very good answer!’ We’re very lucky. You could tell early on the natural ability she had.”
South Elgin also received a fourth-place finish at No. 1 singles from Corinne Hildebrandt, a doubles state qualifier in 2013.