High School Sports

This Althoff girls duo finished fourth at state tennis tourney

Althoff seniors Emma Melichar (left) and Madelyn Skinner (right) won the South Seven Conference and Class A Triad Sectional. They capped their high school careers off with a fourth-place finish at the Class A state tournament and have been named the Belleville News-Democrat Class A Doubles Team of the Year.
Althoff seniors Emma Melichar (left) and Madelyn Skinner (right) won the South Seven Conference and Class A Triad Sectional. They capped their high school careers off with a fourth-place finish at the Class A state tournament and have been named the Belleville News-Democrat Class A Doubles Team of the Year.

A veteran player on the tennis court, Belleville native Brian Zaron didn’t know what to expect when he was hired late last summer as the new girls tennis coach at Althoff Catholic High School.

But with players of the caliber and character of seniors Madelyn Skinner and Emma Melichar, Zaron’s transition was made much easier.

Leaders of a solid and deep Althoff squad, Melichar and Skinner made their fourth year as a doubles combination one to remember. Winners of the South Seven Conference and Class A Triad Sectional, the Crusaders duo capped its high school career off with a fourth-place finish at the Class A State Tennis Tournament this fall in suburban Chicago.

“Did it surprise us that we did so well? Honestly ... not really,” Skinner said recently. “Emma and I have been playing doubles together for four years. We know how we play and that our games compliment each other so well. It was a matter of putting several good matches in a row together.”

The trip north also proved to be a historic one for the Althoff pair. Playing for a Crusaders program that has turned out such players as Becky Kane, Anne Sauget and sisters Jennifer and Kate Himstedt over the years, Melichar and Skinner are the first female tennis players from Althoff to earn all-state recognition, according to the IHSA record book.

For the top four finish, Melichar and Skinner have earned the honor as the Belleville News-Democrat Class A Doubles Team of the Year.

Playing together for the last time, Melichar and Skinner won the Triad Sectional, losing just six games in four matches. The South Seven Conference champions were awarded a 3-4 seed for the state tournament.

“My goal going into the season was for the team to win a sectional championship and to have a chance to play in the state tournament,” Melichar said. “Because we had achieved our goals before we got to state, we just wanted to have fun and see how far we could go.

“We were playing very well all season, and we knew that if we didn’t get too nervous that we had a chance to win some matches, and that’s what we did. I can’t imagine a better way to end our careers.”

And Zaron, a former three-time all-state doubles player at Belleville West over a decade ago, couldn’t have asked for a better doubles combination to start his coaching career with than Melichar and Skinner, two four-year starters who eased the former Maroon great into the Althoff family.

“Emma and Madelyn were really great to have on the team, and not just because they are great at tennis and won a lot of matches,” Zaron said. “They are two of the most humble people you will meet, which isn’t always the case with athletes who play at the top of the lineup.

“Emma was a very solid player for us at No. 1 singles and could always be relied on for a win. ... Madelyn was also an excellent player, but what made me most proud and happy this year was watching her step up big and elevate her game to the highest level for the quarterfinals, semifinals and third-place matches at state. It was really an awesome experience watching the final rounds at state, and I can’t thank them enough for letting myself and anyone who was at state be a part of it.”

Melichar and Skinner were two of the top doubles players in the state all season. Ending their regular season undefeated, the Crusaders duo was seeded in the 3-4 group when first-round pairings were announced before the state finals. Melichar and Skinner entered the state finals with a mark of 12-0.

That record improved to 16-0 after winning their first four matches and advancing into the state semifinals. Included among those four wins was a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 win over Mary Grevas and Ellie Rouse, of Alleman Catholic High, followed by straight-set quarterfinal round victory over South Seven Conference rivals Niusha Daneshdoost and Arina Martin, of Carbondale.

The win over the Carbondale pair of was worth four points in the team standings and locked up a top 10 place finish.

“Our win in the first match of the second day is the one that I’ll remember the most,” Melichar said. “We were down, and somehow we were able to get our game going a little bit better in the second set. After we won that set, I think it gave us the momentum, and we were able to carry it over in the third set.”

After moving into the Class A “Final Four,” Melichar and Skinner faced top-seed Maddie Bauer and McCoy Hutchison of Joliet Catholic Academy. The decision, a 6-3, 6-1 loss, ended the dreams of a state title. But it couldn’t lessen the feeling of accomplishment by the Crusaders duo.

“The two teams we lost to in the semifinals and third-place match were both really good teams,” Skinner said. “We just tried to stay with our game. Emma had the good groundstrokes, and I was maybe stronger at the net.

“But just to be there, in the state tournament semifinals with my good friend, and getting that chance to experience that was something neither one of us will never forget.”

Both Melichar and Skinner will attend college next season. They hope to continue to play club tennis.

Belleville News-Democrat Girls All-Area Tennis Team

Class A Singles Player of the Year

Kylie McCarthy, Triad, sr

Class A Doubles Team of the Year

Madelyn Skinner, sr. and Emma Melichar, Althoff, sr.

Class AA Singles Player of the Year

Chloe McIsaac, Belleville East, soph.

Class AA Doubles Team of the Year

Grace Desse, jr., and Morgan Colbert. sr., Edwardsville

Coaches of the Year

David Lipe, Edwardsville, Brian Zaron, Althoff

First Team Singles

Kylie McCarthy, Triad, sr.

Chloe McIsaac, Belleville East, soph.

Natalie Karibian, Edwardsville, soph.

Mackenzie Shelton, O’Fallon, sr.

Isabel Burwitz, Belleville East, jr.

Katie Halwachs, O’Fallon, sr.

First Team Doubles

Madelyn Skinner, sr. and Emma Melichar, sr., Althoff

Grace Desse, jr., and Morgan Colbert. sr., Edwardsville

Mackenzie Cadagin, sr. and Maria Mezo, sr., Edwardsville

Miley Brunner, frosh and Kate Macaluso, frosh., O’Fallon

Second Team Singles

Jennaka Cain, Collinsville; Abby Cimarolli, Edwardsville; Madison Kokotovich, Belleville West; Lauren Cowulich, Belleville East

Second Team Doubles

Hannah Macias and Abby Fischer, Alton; Mady Schreiber and Abbey Byrnside, O’Fallon; Carolyn Kriegshauser and Lauren Buscher, Belleville East; Ashton Tewell and Anne Snyders, Jerseyville

Honorable Mention Singles

Jillian Rosenkranz, Belleville West; Maddie Buscher, Belleville East; Emma Wieland, Mascoutah; Grace Lindsay, O’Fallon

Honorable Mention Doubles

Mary Nester and Olivia Melichar, Althoff; Grace Brauer and Tara Fiedler, Belleville West; Kaitlyn Fiedler and Dalaney Foster, Belleville West; Kirsten Plocher and Elisabeth Meadows, Highland.

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