Love it or dislike it, the great high school tennis experiment otherwise known as the Class 1A and Class 2A Girls State Tennis Tournament is about to debut.
Riding a 27-match winning streak, Triad senior Kylie McCarthy headlines the list of metro-east area players earning top eight seeds for the IHSA Girls State Tennis Tournament which begins on Thursday in suburban Chicago.
The dominant Class A singles player and winner of the Mississippi Valley Conference and Class A sectional crowns, McCarthy has been awarded a 5 through 8 seed in the singles draw and will take a 27-1 record into her first round match against Anna Iversan of Sterling at 8:30 a.m. at Buffalo Grove High School.
McCarthy along with local doubles combinations Emma Melichar and Madelyn Skinner of Althoff and Grace Desse and Morgan Colbert of Edwardsville are the three seeded entries from the metro east who will match strokes with the best players in the state during the next three days. Both the Melichar-Skinner duo in Class 1A and Desse-Colbert tandem in Class 2A, are seeded in the top four in doubles.
In all, the top 24 players in the metro-east — eight singles players and eight doubles teams — will compete in the state finals.
McCarthy, Althoff doubles pair are top hopes in Class A
In four years Triad tennis coach Devan Faulkenberg has watched McCarthy develop from a gifted athlete to a top tier singles player who has taken on and overcome all challengers during her senior season.
On Thursday, McCarthy begins her quest to prove she is one of the top singles players in the state.
“I think she’s ready. Kylie had just a great sectional tournament in which she lost only one game in four matches. She’s playing at a very high level right now and she’s also playing with a lot more confidence and maturity,’’ Faulkenberg said. “I know she’s set some high goals for herself this weekend and if she plays like she can, I see no reason why she can’t make it to the quarterfinals.’’
Another local player hoping to make some noise in the Class A singles draw is Emma Wieland of Mascoutah. Wieland was the runnerup to McCarthy in the Triad Sectional.
While McCarthy has high hopes in singles, the Althoff pair of Emma Melichar and Madelyn Skinner are looking to do the same in the doubles draw.
The Crusaders top two singles players during the regular season, the Crusaders tandem was impressive in winning the Triad Sectional and should benefit greatly from a tough schedule of tournaments and Class 2A dominated dual match schedule during the regular season.
“We put them in doubles because they are friends and we just felt this was our best way of winning sectional championship,” Althoff coach Brian Zaron said prior to the sectional tournament. “Emma and Madelyn have played well all year and we just felt that they have a better chance of doing something at the state level more in doubles than in singles.”
Joining Melichar and Skinenr at state are teammates Mary Nester and Olivia Melichar and the Highland duo of Kirsten Plocher and Elisabeth Meadows
Desse and Colbert lead strong SWC contingent in Class 2A
While the two-class system has gotten more teams involved in the state tournament series, it had little affect on Edwardsville and O’Fallon in Class 2A. The two Southwestern Conference powers, the Tigers and Panthers have a combined seven entries in the Class 2A event.
Edwardsville, which could contend for a top 10 finish in the team competition, will be led by Grace Desse and Morgan Colbert who earned a top four seed after posting a third win this season over the Belleville East tandem of Chloe McIsaac and Isabel Burwitz in the final of the Belleville East Sectional.
Burwitz and McIsaac also qualified and could be one of the most dangerous unseeded teams in the doubles draw. But Lancers coach Ross Peters is taking the realistic approach.
“What the two-class system does to Class 2A is make it much more challenging for all three days. Before if you got a seed, you were protected for the first two rounds. Now in singles or doubles with less players in the field, you could get a great player right off the bat, lose and then have to fight your way through the back draw.
“Our goal is to win a couple of matches and still be playing on Friday.”
Desse and Colbert are joined at state by teammates Mackenzie Cadagin and Maria Mezo in doubles and sectional champion Natalie Karibian and Abby Cimarolli in singles.
O’Fallon’s state tournament entries are MacKenzie Shelton and Katie Halwachs in singles and the doubles team of Miley Brunner and Kate Macaluso in doubles.