Anusha Pai leads Neuqua Valley past South Elgin

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What a difference a day made for Neuqua Valley first singles player Anusha Pai.

Pai had her entire game together on Thursday, to score a 6-0, 6-0 win and lead the Wildcats to a 7-0 win over visiting Upstate Eight Conference opponent South Elgin.

The match was particularly satisfying for Pai because she got off to such a slow start in a Wednesday match against Naperville North, losing the first set before she recovered to go 6-0 in both the second and the third.

“Yesterday I wasn’t focused,” Pai said. “I would hit the ball and hurry after it. Today, from the beginning I was thinking point by point. I just took it easy, not hurrying and didn’t let anything around me distract me. My footwork was also better than yesterday.”

Neuqua Valley coach Trudy Bennorth noticed the marked improvement in Pai’s approach to the game.

“She was watching the ball better and she moved her feet better,” Bennorth said. “She was just more into the match mentally. She did a great job straightening it out today.”

Bennorth also credited Pai for her progress, in general, this season.

“Anusha’s worked very hard at improving her game,” Bennorth said. “She’s competing with a higher level of first-singles people, and she’s winning a lot of those matches. In a lot of matches, she’s the tough matchup. I’m just happy with the job she’s doing.”

“I feel I’m improving day by day,” Pai said. “The more experience I get, the better I’ll be. I’ll keep working and we’ll see what happens at sectionals.”

It was a successful day overall for the Wildcats (12-2, 4-0) who were never extended to three sets by South Elgin (3-9, 0-4).

“We’re winning but we still have a lot of work to do before conference,” Bennorth said. “We have a lot of depth but we still have to go back and work on several things like our volleys and our footwork.”

“We may not have won any matches,” South Elgin coach Melissa Tuftedal said. “But we made them work and went to deuce in a lot of games. I’m pleased with how hard our kids worked right to the end. When they play good team like Neuqua they learn a lot about what they have work on when they go back to practice.”

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