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PREP TENNIS PREVIEW: Exciting season awaits Koenen

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009 11:11 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009 2:06 p.m. CDT

New challenges and opportunities await St. Charles North girls tennis players this season. 

No one knows this better than junior Liselot Koenen, who is excited to face everything head on. 

“It’s definitely a new year for me,” Koenen said. “My goal is to have the most fun this year.  We have a great team this year.”

One of the biggest challenges to overcome for Koenen is the graduation of her sister and doubles partner, Annemijn. The sisters compiled a 19-3 record en route to a sixth-place finish at the IHSA state tournament last season, the highest ever for the North Stars. 

“We went into state and we were just going to do our best because we knew state was unbelievably hard,” Liselot said. “We had fun with every single match. We got really far. We broke the record for our school by making it so far. I think we were both really proud of ourselves for making it that far because we never expected it.”

Annemijn also served her sister as a mentor on and off the court before leaving to play at Arkansas.

“I’ve always had my sister there in everything I ever do, even outside school tennis,” Liselot said. “That’s definitely different. I love playing doubles.  She was definitely the leader of the team last year.”

Whether Koenen plays singles or doubles this year, she is up for anything under new coach Eve Tubman, who takes over for Tim Matacio. She wants to do whatever is best for the North Stars, who return a corps of state qualifiers that includes doubles tandem Jenna Bell and Alecia Natale.

“We have such a strong team this year,” Koenen said. “I definitely feel more confident in doubles. I think I want to try both and see what works best. It depends on the team and how the team can do. If the team wants me at doubles, I’ll play doubles. If the team wants me at singles, I’ll play singles. It’s all about the team.”

Her goals for the year are to continue her success from last year. 

“I want to play well,” Koenen said. “My ultimate goal is to get to state.”

Koenen worked hard on honing her game in the offseason. Her serve is her secret to success at singles and doubles.  Her forehand also is a strength, as her blend of power and placement help her set up key shots. 

“She hits amazing shots,” Tubman said.  “She doesn’t do it just once. She does it repeatedly.”

Keeping that up will be another challenge, but Koenen remains confident her team will help her though.

“We have a lot of good seniors who are very good leaders,” Koenen said. “We have a new coach. I think every new challenge that awaits us is going to help us because everything is new. We have a great attitude and a great coaching staff.  I think we’ll do really well this year.”

TEAMS TO WATCH

ST. CHARLES NORTH
The North Stars return plenty of depth to their singles and doubles lineups and will look to veterans Liselot Koenen and Sarah Amalraj in singles to bring leadership, talent and experience. “I think we will be extremely competitive in the [Upstate Eight] Conference,” new North coach Eve Tubman said. “All of the the girls worked really hard on their games.” Seniors Jenna Bell and Alecia Natale form the top doubles tandem and return experience from last year’s state berth in Hoffman Estates.

Geneva
The Vikings hope to repeat their success from last year, which included a 21-3 record and a 16th-place finish at the IHSA state meet. Look for another strong year in singles from the team up and down the lineup, especially from Kayla Fujimoto at No. 1 singles. Alexa Rogers and Carly Ausman show a strong presence in No. 2 doubles for the Western Sun Conference powers. “Our first goal is to win conference. It’ll be how those doubles teams form up and play together,” said Vikings coach Maureen Weiler, who also expects big things from sophomore transfer Haley Wilburn.

KANELAND
With eight returning seniors, the Knights are in a position to challenge any team in the Western Sun Conference. “I think we certainly have the talent to be very competitive in the conference,” said Knights coach Tim Larsen. Top returning seniors include Olivia Emmanouil and Liz Webb while promising junior Lindsay Jurcenko returns in the No. 1 singles slot. Sophomore newcomers Amelia Napiorkowski and Madi Limbrick bring additional strength to the singles positions.

Players to watch Sarah Amalraj – St. Charles North, Sr. Almalraj qualified for state last year in singles. Her dedication should help her advance again this season.

Carly Ausman – Geneva, So. Ausman already qualified for state as a freshman. With that experience under her belt, look for her to get to state again this season.

Kayla Fujimoto – Geneva, Sr. Fujimoto finished in sixth place at the IHSA state meet last year after taking first place in the Western Sun Conference sectional meets. Her dedication to tennis will keep her on top in 2009.

Erin Bowman – St. Charles East, Jr. Whether she lines up at singles or doubles, Bowman uses her experience – two state tournament trips – and talent to boost the Saints.

Lindsay Jurcenko – Kaneland, Jr. Jurcenko worked hard in the offseason and augments the Knights’ lineup with a solid overall game.

Katie King – Rosary, Jr. Playing with classmate Angelina Goheen, King qualified for state in doubles in 2008. 

Liselot Koenen – St. Charles North, Jr. Koenen finished sixth in doubles at state last year with a 19-3 record alongside sister Annemijn, who has graduated.

Hannah Potter – Batavia, So. The sophomore Bulldog won 24 matches as a freshman, so Batavia hopes more good things will follow this year.

Kim Sawyer – Batavia, Sr. Sawyer enters the season with 84 victories. As a two-time state qualifier, look for her to qualify again with even higher finishes.

Elizabeth Vertin – Rosary, Sr. Vertin qualified for state in singles last year and will look to do so again thanks to a strong work ethic in the offseason.

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