O'Fallon Progress

Athlete of the Week — O’Fallon’s Shree Patel returns to state tennis tourney

Shree Patel returns a serve at practice earlier this year.
Shree Patel returns a serve at practice earlier this year. mhodapp@bnd.com

Shree Patel will be making history of sorts at this weekend’s state tennis tourney in Chicago.

Patel will be entering the tourney as a three-time doubles sectional champion, which is impressive enough.

But what might be more impressive is his manner of doing it.

Patel has achiveved his feat by playing with three different doubles partners in three successive years.

“Shree works hard and gives it his all,” O’Fallon coach Erin Thoman said.

“He is always ready to play wherever he is asked. Shree is very coachable and a great role model to the other players.”

Riley Muren and Patel advanced after winning Saturday’s doubles sectional championship in Troy. Today (Thursday), the two O’Fallon seniors will play Garret Lytle and Jason Eberly of Lansing (Illiana Christian) in the opening round of the state double’s tourney.

The Panther duo on Friday of last week blasted their way to easy wins in the first two rounds of play without losing a game. After jumping ahead of Triad’s Naylor and Guse in the semi-final match 6-1, Muren and Patel had to reach back for a little extra to beat back a challenge from the two Knights before winning the second set 6-4. The string of victories by Muren and Patel set up an “all O’Fallon” championship match.

Thoman said Shree and Riley have good chemistry and communication.

“That is why they have so much success,” she said about her co-captains. “They have played competitively all season, and it was great to see them win the sectional in doubles.”

Patel and Muren will enter today’s state match with a 19-10 record.

After going 2-2 in last year’s state tourney, Patel is hoping he and Patel can advance further in the final high school state tourney of their careeer.

Patel enters the match with confidence.

“Each year I get a little better,” he said. “So it becomes not as big a feat in my mind because I have been there twice before.”

Patel wants to hold the state title very badly.

“So, I am working hard at doing it,” he said.

Muren and Patel bring a lot of skill to the tennis court.

Muren is a passionate player.

“We have our own chemistry that works out very well,” Patel said.

But if they have any chance of winning the state title, Patel believes he and Muren have to be ready.

“There are a lot of good teams at state,” Patel said.

O’Fallon will not play a seeded player in the opening round of the tourney by virtue of winning the sectional, which could be good for the Panthers who are hoping to advance to the second and third day of the three-day tourney.

As a team, this will be O’Fallon’s 13th state tourney appearance.

While this might be Patel and Muren’s first appearance at state as a doubles team, they have known each other for a long time. They have not only lived in the same area, but have grown playing together with each other.

“We attack the net very well,” Patel said. “We’re very consistent with our strokes.”

Patel also has a strong serve, which usually sets Muren up for a good volley at the net.

“Riley’s ground strokes are phenomenal,” Patel said. “He has a backhand which I have to argue is one of the best in the Southwest Conference.”

Patel and Muren have had strong senior seasons.

They, however, might need some luck at this weekend’s state tourney, according to Patel.

“There is definitely a favor of luck in seeding,” he said.

Patel said he’d be nervous until the draws were released late Tuesday afternoon.

“Right now, I’m not thinking too much about it,” he said

“But no matter what our draw is, I’m confident in our game we are going to do well at state.”