ELMHURST — Elmwood Park senior Karli Noone and junior Oksana Andrukhiv both had serious questions leading up to this fall’s tennis season.
Noone saw her doubles partner from the last two years graduate and had no idea who she would be teamed with. Meanwhile, Andrukhiv had become tired of playing singles and was secretly hoping she could be moved to doubles.
The girls kept their concerns to themselves but with a little detective work, Tigers’ head coach Vasilios Merkouris got to the bottom and came up with a solution.
“I’m really open with the girls and I’ll ask them off the record what they want to do,” Merkouris said. “At first they’ll say, ‘I don’t care; whatever is the best for the team.’ Then I’ll ask them what they really want to do.
“At the beginning of the season I could see they were the strongest people so I put them together and talked them through a couple points. They just kind of went with it.”
Both girls are glad to be paired together at No. 1 doubles.
“Coming into this year I had no idea who I was going to play with and I wasn’t looking forward to it,” Noone said. “Oksana played first singles so it was weird to match up singles with doubles but we ended up working really well and we caught on to each other.”
“I played singles last year and the year before that but I like doubles more than singles,” Andrukhiv said. “In singles you’re by yourself and it was a little more stressful than playing with a partner who can support you.”
The Tigers had won just two matches each of the two previous years but this year Elmwood Park (7-8-1) is much more competitive.
Much like the team, No. 1 doubles has been a surprise. Noone and Andrukhiv are 18-9 this season including 5-2 during conference matches. On Saturday, they took second place in the Metro Suburban East Meet at Behrens Park in Elmhurst.
The keys to success have been pretty simple.
“The main thing is that we don’t give up and we go for every point,” Andrukhiv said.
“We play to defend our side, not to win points,” Noone said. “We play consistently and that’s what helps us win.”
Merkouris is pleased with the pair’s results and both players have made his job a lot easier.
“It’s surprised me with how well they’ve done at No. 1 doubles, but both of them are very coachable and they go out and do what I ask them to do,” Merkouris said. “On top of that, Oksana is a big hustler and very scrappy and will get to a lot of the balls that a lot of people won’t. Karli is just kind of the game manager and takes charge of the points. They do well together.”
Heading into the York Sectional on Friday and Saturday, Merkouris likes the duo’s chances at advancing to State. But the key will be seeding.
“With the right draw it’s a realistic possibility,” he said. “They just have to stay away from the No. 1, 2 or 3 seeds.”
Both girls are excited about extending their season another week.
“We’re going to try and do our best to get to state,” Andrukhiv. “Hopefully we’ll get a good seed.”
“State would be really nice,” Noone said