SYCAMORE – It says a lot about a program for it to lose a huge chunk of its production and still expect to be competitive the next year.
That’s the position of Sycamore tennis. After the 2012 season, Dave Hillmer’s team graduated five seniors who were crucial members of the Spartans’ doubles teams: Melany Findlay, Alyssa Gregorec, Lauren Lundbeck, Caitlin Mereness, and Aspen Paulsen.
Even so, Hillmer expects that he’ll field a solid team this year.
“I think we’re going to be pretty good” Hillmer said. “Not as good as last year, but pretty good.”
Last year would be tough to top. The 2012 team finished with a 16-1-1 record and the Northern Illinois Big 12 East title. But despite the heavy losses and the team’s youth, the sights are still set high.
“Our goal this year is to win conference like we did last year,” senior Alexa Farris said. “This year, we only have two seniors, so we were kind of worried about that, but I think it’s going to work out.”
Fortunately, they return their most successful player in 2012, and they’ll have her for several years to come. Angelina Ye was just a freshman last season, but she won conference and sectional singles titles before going on all the way to the consolation seventh round of the state tournament.
Ye ultimately finished in the top 16 of Illinois singles players overall, and she doesn’t foresee a sophomore slump.
She said her main goals are to hold onto her conference and sectional championships this season.
Alongside her are two other players who are also expected to have major contributions. Farris is the most experienced player on the team, and as captain, she has taken over a leadership role. Kathryn Sullivan, a sophomore, had an impressive first season that she’ll be looking to build upon.
“We’ve been doing our thing,” Ye said. “Now we need to just help the underclassmen get adjusted so that they can step up.”
Two players that could be prime candidates to do so are Kelly Johnson and Jackie Cole. Both are sophomores who Hillmer said are in a position right now to get a lot of playing time.
At this point, there is no pressure on the players to repeat last season’s success, but with the goals they’ve set for themselves, it’ll still be quite a challenge.
“The talent’s here,” Hillmer said. “The question is, can we bring it out?”
Girls tennis prep caspules
Coach: Beth Adeoti (first season)
2012 accomplishments: Taylor Volk advanced to the first round of state singles tournament.
Key returners: Jade Barber, sr.; Marisol Cervantes, jr.; Amanda Hedberg, sr.
Key newcomers: Mary Ellen Green, so.; Samantha Meyers-Miller, so.
Outlook: It looks to be somewhat of a transition season for the Barbs. They graduated Volk, who made it to states, and now have a new coach in Adeoti. At this point, they are focused on being as competitive as possible.
Adeoti's Take: "I want us to be consistent and to compete pretty evenly with the rest of the conference. I think we have the talent to do that."
Coach: Tim Larsen (seventh season)
2012 Accomplishments: Finished 2nd place in Northern Illinois Big 12 East. Finished second at sectional tournament. Sammie Schrepferman went to first round of states in singles. Doubles team of Angelica Emmanouil and Madi Jurcenko made it to sixth round of states and were named to the All-State team (first time in Kaneland history).
Key returners: Angelica Emmanouil, jr.; Madi Jurcenko, jr.; Sammie Schrepferman, jr.
Outlook: The Knights return the bulk of a team that finished one game short of a conference title in 2012. They are a heavy contender to win it this season. Schrepferman as well as Emmanouil and Jurcenko had stellar sophomore seasons and will look to repeat or even build on the success.
Larsen's take: "We return a lot, so this could be a very good season for us. We should be really competitive in the conference title race."
Coach: Dave Hillmer (21st season)
2012 Accomplishments: 16-1-1 record. Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference champions. Angelina Ye won conference and sectional singles championships, advanced to seventh round of states.
Key returners: Alexa Farris, sr.; Kathryn Sullivan, so.; Angelina Ye, so.
Key newcomers: Jackie Cole, so.; Kelly Johnson, so.
Outlook: The Spartans graduated a large senior class and lose a lot of experience on the doubles teams. However, Angelina Ye is just a sophomore, and she showed that she is a top talent in the state. Senior Alexa Farris also provides a wealth of experience. They appear to have a great chance of repeating as conference champions, and it's what the team expects of itself.
Hillmer's take: "We won't be as good as last year, but we'll still be pretty tough. Our goal is to win the conference again, and I'd like to send a few kids to states."