With the graduation of four year starter and four-time sectional singles champion in Kayleigh Thurwalker and a group of seniors with little experience at the varsity level, there were several questions surrounding the Belleville West Maroons tennis team this season.
Playing in the 16-team Champaign Centennial Invitational last weekend, West coach Jenny Mennerick got the answers she wanted.
Getting a championship effort in doubles from their top tandem of Kaylie Comley and Ellen Binnion, the Maroons finished a more than respectable sixth in the team competition while also getting a much needed jolt of confidence heading into the start of the Southwestern Conference season.
“With the number of girls we have who haven’t played a lot at the varsity level, I was very pleased at how we played this weekend in Champaign. This is one of the toughest tournaments we play in with a lot of great teams,’’ Mennerick said. “I wasn’t really surprised at how we played though because I know how much time the girls have put into their games in the last few months.’’
“To place sixth was a good spot for us. It shows us that we have work ahead to keep improving.’’
Comley, who played No. 2 singles behind Thurwalker last season, makes the jump to the top sport in ‘15. Blessed with good speed and quickness, Comley combines her athleticism with excellent ground strokes into a player who should be in title contention each time she steps on the court.
“Kaylie has put in a tremendous amount of time on her game over the summer,” Mennerick said. “She is a backboard in that she gets everything back, but she also had great speed and the ability to run any shot down. She’s also a fierce competitor. She doesn’t like to lose.’’
Senior Keely Lougeay also moves up a spot from No. 3 singles to No. 2 while Binnion, who played the No. 6 singles spot last year, moves to the No. 3 position this season.
Binnion and Comley won all four of their matches in doubles at Champaign this weekend to finish with the title in the No. 1 flight.
“Was I surprised they won the title? No, I really wasn’t,’’ Mennerick said. “I know they hadn’t played together in doubles before this year but we felt with their styles of play that if they came together and executed the shots they needed to that they would do just fine. I’m very proud of both of them. They played great and it was a very exciting weekend.
“Singles wise, both Keely Lougeay and Ellen (Binnion) have improved a great deal. I’m sure they will do just fine.’’
Alyssa Tourville, Maddie Langen and Brianna Sexton round out the top six singles players for West while Madison Kokotovich and Jackie Sehr are also expected to play doubles and singles in the Maroons lineup this season.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.