Tiffany Chen is determined to treat this like any other week.
Even if this is anything but just “another” week.
All eyes will be on the Naperville Central junior as she looks to defend her singles championship at the state tennis meet that starts Thursday in Buffalo Grove. She has drawn the No. 1 seed in the singles bracket.
Chen sounds like a girl who will let the chips fall where they may.
“I’m not going to sit here and ruminate too much about everything,” Chen said. “It’s nice to have a state title on my back, but I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself to do anything spectacular. Whatever happens happens.”
Chen is seeking to become the first singles champion to go back-to-back since Parker’s Elizabeth Epstein did so in 2007-08. Chen also could become the Redhawks’ second repeat champion as Elizabeth Lumkpkin won four in a row from 2000-03.
“I’m just thinking about my next match,” Chen said. “Once you start thinking about the whole tournament, you get distracted.”
The season leading up to this week seems like it’s been little more than a tune-up for Chen.
She is 21-0 and hasn’t dropped a set all year. At sectionals she didn’t lose a single game.
Chen did get a better barometer two weekends ago, when she skipped the DuPage Valley Conference meet to play in a USTA event in Texas. She considers herself a better player than a year ago at this time — faster and stronger.
“She has definitely added more power to her game,” Naperville Central coach Don Bonet said. “The key is keeping that power and her consistency, which is just phenomenal.”
Chen will be joined at state by doubles teammates Cass Goldner and Hannah Swarm — and that’s quite a story in and of itself.
Goldner’s senior season was seemingly written off after surgery for a torn labrum in June. Swarm herself underwent what was thought to be a season-ending knee surgery during the summer.
Swarm returned after missing the first two weeks and won a DVC doubles crown with Sabrina Chow. When Goldner was cleared last week, the two paired up for a sectional championship.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Bonet said. “Ten days ago Cass wasn’t even playing and now she’s going to state.”
Meanwhile, Neuqua Valley is sending a full complement to state for the first time.
Freshman Christina Stankovic and third-time qualifier Anusha Pai are both in the singles bracket. The doubles pairs of Taylor Hershey and Jessica Chen and Shruthi Sethuraman and Megan Dart are also both going north.
Wildcats coach Trudy Bennorth, whose Neuqua boys teams have posted top 10 finishes in four of the last six years, is looking for the girls to get on the team leaderboard.
“I would really love to get top 15 to start out with and then go from there,” Bennorth said.
Naperville North will be represented at state by the doubles team of Abbie Boswell and Jessica Hu, both returning qualifiers. Waubonsie Valley has senior Susanna Rantanen and the doubles squad of Abbey Glavin and Serena Zhu.
Benet is sending the doubles team of Allison Bartley and Katie Telford.