ST. CHARLES – Some of the Batavia girls tennis team’s spiciest matches come in practice.
The Bulldogs’ top two singles players, senior Kim Sawyer and sophomore Hannah Potter, enjoy duking it out, with the aggressive, big-hitting Potter often benefiting from the lessons of observing Sawyer’s smooth, cerebral approach to the game.
“I love playing Kim,” Potter said. “Our matches every day are always different, and the scores are always different. Every day I learn something new. I think we help each other out a lot.”
“I’m glad she’s there,” Sawyer said of Potter. “She pushes me and she’s good practice ... she hits the ball hard.”
Sawyer and Potter both finished Saturday’s St. Charles East Invitational strong, winning their third-place matches. Sawyer toppled Geneva’s Carly Ausman, 6-0, 6-3, while Potter defeated St. Charles East’s Jessica Gatehouse, 6-3, 7-5.
Ausman filled in at No. 1 singles for Geneva’s Kayla Fujimoto, who missed the tournament while taking a college visit.
“I just stayed consistent and waited for Carly to make mistakes,” Sawyer said. “In the second set Carly stayed a little more consistent and didn’t make as many mistakes.”
Potter, meanwhile, had difficulty keeping her focus in the third-place match. She was still smarting about dropping the decisive tiebreaker against Benet’s Mary Beth King in the No. 2 singles semifinals, and her focus drifted for portions of the match with Gatehouse.
“I think sometimes I go for too much on the wrong shots,” Potter said.
Still, Potter was satisfied with a third-place showing.
“There’s a lot of good players, and me only a sophomore, I think it’s good for the future,” Potter said.
Gatehouse, meanwhile, was an unlikely candidate to play No. 2 singles for East. A junior varsity player last year as a sophomore, Gatehouse’s stock is on the rise. Her lineup slotting was also aided by injury, illness and an ACT test conflict that forced East coach Sena Drawer to juggle the lineup.
Not the best of timing for a weekend East is hosting a major tournament.
“Almost everyone here had to deal with something,” Drawer said. “As they came this morning, everyone said ‘I’ve got ACT today, I’ve got one out sick, I’ve got this injury.’
“You know, they’re high school kids. There’s always an issue on a team but we all do the best we can.”
Drawer was excited to see Gatehouse give Potter a hard time.
“It is a big jump,” Drawer said of Gatehouse ascending to No. 2 singles. “She improved a lot. She’s pretty mentally tough. She doesn’t need a lot of coddling. She’s coachable. She listens to what I say, and tries to be as effective as she can in executing that.”
East’s No. 1 doubles team of Erin Bowman and Lexi Baltes fell in the third-place match to Naperville Central’s Taylor Spence and Megan Griffin. Bowman and Baltes led 4-3 in the second set before stumbling down the stretch.
Drawer said Bowman and Baltes are capable of more.
“We just were flat today,” Drawer said.
Benet won the eight-team tournament, followed by second-place Wheaton North. Batavia wound up fifth, the best finish of the local teams.