Based on their playing styles, Belleville West coach Jenny Mennerick knew all along that seniors Kaylie Comley and Ellen Binnion would be compatable partners on the tennis court.
It took a while for the pair to mesh personally, however.
"This is our first year together playing doubles," Binnion said. "We're good friends now, but at first we were kind of shy toward each other."
The duo has racked up 29 doubles wins against just three losses and has gotten only better as the two became more comfortable with each other both on the court and in their shared social circles. The momentum they've built has carried them to sectional championship and the field of 32 at the IHSA State Tournament this weekend.
29-3 Binnion and Comley’s doubles record in 2015
11-3 Burwitz and Lopez’s doubles record
The duo received a 17-32 seeding, which means it won't have to play another seeded team before the third round of the tournament. Binnion and Comley first face unseeded Lily Ballard and Lexi Chrostoski of Herrin at Prospect High School Thursday.
Both Binnion and Comley brought strengths in their games that match their respective personalities.
Comley, who has made to previous trips to state as a singles player, has a quieter demeanor and prefers a more plotting and patient game. She can volley all day or until her opponent makes an error, whichever comes first, Mennerick says.
Binnion, who's making her first trip north, brings a power game that matches her fiery personality.
But since becoming a team, each has adopted a little more of the other's style.
"Since they've played together, Kylie has stepped up and been more aggressive," Mennerick said. "As a pair, they are very solid fundamentally, but are aggressive enough that they are taking control of the points."
Since they've played together, Kylie has stepped up and been more aggressive. As a pair, they are very solid fundamentally, but are aggressive enough that they are taking control of the points.
Jenny Mennerick, West coach on how Binnion and Comley have influenced each other
Melding to individual styles into one team effort came with better communication and familiarity, the pair says.
"Ellen has rubbed off on me a little bit, I think," Comley said. "She has a way of getting you more pumped up."
Says Binnion: "I think we've just reached a point where we better understand each other's style and we've learned how to support each other."
Belleville East Duo
The Belleville East doubles team of sophomore Isabel Burwitz and senior Rylan Lopez also earned a 17-32 seed in the state finals field.
They will face Mary Grevas and Megan Schueneman or Rock Island in a first round match at Buffalo Grove High School Thursday.
Burwitz is making her second state doubles appearance but without her usual partner, senior Sophie Von Hatten, who went down with a shoulder injury about half way through the season.
They've been playing very well and, to tell you the truth, I really thought they would.
Ross Peters, East coach on bringing Burwitz and Lopez together as a doubles pair
East coach Ross Peters paired Burwitz and Lopez together just in time for the Southern Illinois Duals at Edwardville where they faced the doubles team from Rock Ridge High School, the Missouri state champions.
"It was a trial by fire," Peters said. "But Burwitz has been my No. 1 or No. 2 singles player and Rylan has been a reliable No. 3 and I thought they would give us a good chance in sectionals."
The pair has won 11 matches since and, Peter says, has developed good on-court chemistry at the right time.
"They've been playing very well and, to tell you the truth, I really thought they would," Peter said. "Being seeded, it's nice to know you won't face one of the top teams until Friday, then again we know there are only good teams up there and you have to play good if you want to advance. We've got to be at our best and that's our mindset for the duration."
Other seeded qualifiers
Callaghan Adams or Edwardsville is advancing to state for the fourth time in her high school career. She’s 34-2 this season as a singles player and needs just three wins this weekend to break her school’s record for wins at state. She and the Edwardsville doubles team of Morgan Colbert and Grace Dees (24-3) are the highest seeded players from the metro-east at a 9-16.
Callaghan will face unseeded Mara Lebo of Mount Zion at Hersey High School Thursday. Colbert and Dees play Kayla Vaughn and Stphanie Saminiego of Calumet City at Prospect High School.
▪ Chloe McIsaac (Belleville East) v. Jennifer Lewis (Chicago University High)
▪ Shelby Jones (Marquette) v. Marisa Patel-O’Connor (Peoria-Richwoods)
▪ Kylie McCarthy (Triad) v. Jessica Minkov (Franklin Park)
▪ Emma Melichar (Althoff) v. Grace Krueger (Geneva)
▪ Natalie Karibian (Edwardsville) v. Hannah Blythe (Vandalia)
▪ Sydney Owsley (Roxana) v. Elizabeth Lindqwister (Peoria-Richwoods)
▪ Mackenzie Shelton (O’Fallon) v. Emma Dingbaum (Morris)
▪ Kate Dumstorff and Bailey Bohnenstiehl (O’Fallon) v. Toni Paterno and Ellie Wiener (Elmhurst)
▪ Elana Gable and Laura Moore (Marquette) v. Megan Woolverton and Lucia Lacuesta (Massac County)
▪ Maria Mezo and Mackenzie Cadagin (Edwardsville) v. Sonia Ost and Jenna Patzner (St. Charles East)
▪ Kaycie Dresch and Morgan Smith (Belleville East) v. Jovana Vujanic and Lauran Odda (Elk Grove Village)