Involved in the sport of tennis for as long as she can remember, Jenny Mennerick wasn't the least bit intimidated a year ago in her first season as head coach of the Belleville West Maroons.
Known for her consistency and competitive spirit during her playing days at O'Fallon High School and McKendree University, Mennerick did her best to keep West near the top of the Southwestern Conference.
"Am I tough on my team? Somewhat. Belleville West girls tennis has a rich winning tradition and we want to keep that tradition,'' Mennerick said. "I was pleased with our first year. I have been around the game most of my life as a player and I was an assistant under coach (Bob) Keefe for a couple years before I was named head coach. I knew what to expect.
"We had a good season a year ago and we're looking forward to another successful season this year.''
Graduation hit the Maroons hard last spring but a trio of seniors led by Kayleigh Thurwalker and a strong junior in Kaylie Comley, return to lead the way for West this fall.
In Thurwalker, the Maroons may have one of the top 10 players in the state. Entering her fourth season in the starting lineup, the tall, agile Thurwalker is already one of the top players in school history.
The reigning SWC and IHSA Sectional champion, Thurwalker placed in the top 16 a year ago at the state finals. After a non-stop spring and summer schedule of tournament play and lessons, Thurwalker is ready for the next step.
"Kayleigh's goal is to place in the top eight at the state tournament and I think she's got an excellent chance to do just that,'' Mennerick said. "She's worked very hard past few months to prepare for this season and she's improved in every aspect.
"Kayleigh's got all the shots. She's stronger and her footwork is very good. And yes, her serve has improved as well.
Mennerick said the recruiting process has begun for Thurwalker but that no decision on where she will attend college has been made.
The rest of the Maroons lineup is also solid.
A pair of juniors -- Kaylie Comley and Keely Lougeay -- were varsity players a year ago and should be among the best in the SWC, while seniors Maddie Woodrome and Alyson Veile along with junior Ellen Binnion round out the Maroons current singles lineup.
"I am pleased at how much these girls have improved. You can see that they have worked hard on their game,'' Mennerick said.
Three other players -- Maddie Langen, Jackie Sehr and Madison Kokotovich are also competing for time in the starting lineup in either singles or doubles.