Homewood-Flossmoor doubles hoping to put south suburbs on the map

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Timara Maxwell and Sophia Osabuohien haven’t left themselves much room for improvement.

Heading into this week’s state tennis tournament, improvement is what the Homewood-Flossmoor doubles team is seeking.

The duo made it to the state quarterfinals last season before losing two straight matches.

“We’re hoping we can do better than last year,” Maxwell said. “We think we will do much better. We’re also looking to show that the South Side has some really good tennis, and it’s not just the northwest suburbs.”

Maxwell, a senior, and Osabuohien, a junior, will open the three-day state tournament Thursday against Minooka freshmen Grace Thelo and Gabby Hajduk at Rolling Meadows in the opening round.

Homewood-Flossmoor coach Don Baron knows what his doubles team — which is seeded 5-8 and sports a 22-0 record — brings to the tournament.

“They have a year more of experience, and they’re comfortable (at state),” Baron said. “Timara and Sophia have put a lot of time in, offseason and during the season, and we know they can go deep, advance past the final eight.”

The familiarity with the state experience is one more advantage. The girls have qualified for the state tournament all three years they’ve been playing together. In their past two years they won a combined seven matches at state.

“We know what to do between each other when we play,” Osabuohien said. “We know not to get too nervous, to not get down on each other. It isn’t about match to match or even set to set. It’s working from point to point.”

Maxwell and Osabuohien, friends off the court and extreme competitors on the court, are ready for a big state run.

“We play in the USTA (United States Tennis Association) in the offseason, and we work very well together,” Maxwell said. “We know each other well, play the same aggressive style, play the same game and we’re able to connect.”

No south suburban doubles team ever has won a state title.

“Being undefeated is a blessing, and we want to see what we can do,” Osabuohien said. “We know how much we have improved since Timara was a sophomore and I was a freshman. We want to end on that good note.”

No matter how things turn out, Baron knows the girls are capable of making a big run. And on the biggest stage of the season, he thinks they will step up.

“They don’t let anything rattle them. They’re just mentally tough and very aggressive,” Baron said. “They play with a good short-term memory. If they make a mistake, they keep playing with relentless pressure. It is fun to watch.”

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