Taken as a whole, Streamwood’s tennis program isn’t ready to measure up against the Upstate Eight’s best.
It started the season with four girls, now up to 12. Two are seniors.
And then there’s Alaina Kanthaphixay.
“She kind of fell into our lap,” Streamwood coach Jeff Szukala said.
A diamond in the rough, the freshman has burst onto the scene with a 16-3 season. Two of those losses came to returning state qualifier Dahlia Keonavongsa of Elgin — the second of the defeats by a third-set super tiebreaker two weeks ago.
Kanthaphixay has beaten another returning qualifier, Batavia’s Nora McClure, 6-3, 6-0. She’s part of a strong crop of freshman singles players in the UEC; West Aurora has Elizabeth Stefancic, and West Chicago’s also a good one.
“She can go toe-to-toe with anybody,” Szukala said of Kanthaphixay. “She’s made some noise.”
Szukala, who took over at Streamwood this year, knew he had something special from Day 1.
“First practice, I’m trying to hit with her and it’s like ‘Wow,’” he said. “It was pretty evident the girl could play. You almost have to see it to believe it.”
A club player who first picked up a racket at age four, Kanthaphixay has what Szukala believes is one of the best forehands around.
“You’re lazy on a return, she’ll make you pay,” he said.
North Stars’ ‘grinders’
Brittany Rohrsen and Morgan Rerko may not win style points. The St. Charles North junior doubles team makes up for it with substance.
“They just grind each match,” North coach Eve Tubman said. “As an outsider, you’re not going to look at them and be wowed, but they wear you down. Eventually they will finish the point. Not a lot of flash, but they win.”
And win they do. Rohrsen and Rerko are 10-4, unbeaten in conference and likely seeded first at this weekend’s Upstate Eight River meet.
Best friends since the first grade, Rohrsen and Rerko won conference at fourth doubles as freshmen. The partnership was temporarily broken up last year when Rerko fractured her wrist playing soccer, but now is back and better than ever.
“Brittany is the steadiest girl on our team, and Morgan has the best feet,” Tubman said. “They respect each other on and off the court and work well together.”
Hampshire’s girls are getting an early lesson on time management this fall.
The Whip-Purs’ roster is loaded with seniors, 10 of them to be exact — Julie Schreiner, Paige Larson, Stacey Hamman, Amanda Schultz, Katelyn Schoedl, Abby Eischen, Hayley Raad, Jenny Magalit, Summer Bennett and Desiree Hernandez.
Five of those leave early from school to take classes at Elgin Community College. Three have jobs.
Needless to say it’s been a juggling act for Hampshire coach Bill Jepsen. Often he doesn’t play with a full deck.
“It’s a regular challenge, the first time I’ve dealt with something like this,” Jepsen said.
That said, Jepsen knows none of his girls will ever play tennis professionally. Many of them will be balancing a college class load and other interests a year from now.
“I try to keep it in perspective. They’re here to participate,” Jepsen said. “It’s tough with scheduling, but a great lesson for the balancing act which we continue to do as adults.”