The Althoff Crusaders all-state doubles combination Olivia Melichar and Mary Nester lead a strong group of area players into the IHSA Girls State Tennis Tournament which begins Thursday in suburban Chicago.
One of the surprises of of the tennis season a year ago when they placed fifth in the Class 1A state finals and earned all-state recognition , Melichar and Nester are the eighth seed and will take on Noelle Schacht and Ashley Mills of Champaign St. Thomas More at Rolling Meadows High School in a first round match.
South Seven Conference champions and winners of the Triad Sectional a week ago, Melichar and Nester will be joined at the state finals by teammate Jordyn Roper who won the sectional singles championship.
Sectional team champion Triad advanced all four of its sectional tournament entries. The Knights top hopes are Evelyn Wells in singles and the team of Bailey Grigg and Molly Suess in doubles. Both placed third at the Triad Sectional.
Highland, which won the Centralia Sectional, has a top hope in singles in junior Taylor Fleming. The sectional singles champion, Fleming will be joined at the state finals by teammates Kate Feldmann in singles and the doubles pair of Ashlen Deluca and Ashley Basden.
Mascoutah sophomore Ella Mostoller is the Indians lone state tournament entry.
The Class 1A and Class 2A State Tournaments continue at sites throughout the Chicago outskirts on Friday and Saturday.
Belleville East singles players Chloe McIsaac and JoJo Skaer are two of the top local hopes in the Class 2A state finals which once again has a brutally difficult draw featuring the top players in the Chicago area.
“You’re basically at the mercy of the draw, especially in Class 2A,’’ East coach Ross Peters said. “With entries of 64 in both singles and doubles, there are no easy matches. The Chicago area is that strong.
“I know both of our girls goal is to win a match or two in the main draw and to still be playing late Friday afternoon.’’
McIsaac, the two-time reigning News-Democrat Player of the Year, and Skaer helped the Lancers to one of the finest seasons in school history this fall. The Lancers won the Southwestern Conference championship. With McIsaac and Skaer leading the way, East won the sectional title last week. McIsaac defeated Skaer 6-1, 6-0 in the singles title match.
“They both were just outstanding for us all year. JoJo was the most improved player in the Southwestern Conference last year and she probably could be again. She’s just an excellent athlete,’’ Peters said. “Chloe is just so solid in every aspect. If I would have to say the biggest improvement in her game is that she is handling pace off her opponents shots so much better this year.’’
Edwardsville also has a solid singles player in sophomore Chloe Trimpe competing, but the Tigers top hope lies in doubles where seniors Natalie Karibian and Abby Cimarolli were seeded in the 9-16 group. Cimarolli and Karibian defeated sisters and state qualifiers Kaitlyn Fiedler and Taylor Fiedler of Belleville West 6-3, 6-0 in the sectional final.
Other top hopes in doubles are Hannah Colbert and Annie McGinnis of Edwardsville and Kate Macaluso and Emiley Fritz of O’Fallon.