About the only thing that could prevent Liselot Koenen from piling up wins this season were trans-Atlantic airplane trips.
The St. Charles North senior’s sterling season was interrupted twice for trips back to her native Netherlands, where she had to travel for meetings related to securing a green card.
Koenen lived in the Netherlands until she was 7, when she and her family moved to Louisiana before another move to St. Charles when she was in eighth grade.
Although she had to miss a handful of matches, the Chronicle’s Girls Tennis Player of the Year didn’t mind the excuse to reconnect with loved ones.
“I definitely enjoyed it – I enjoy every time I go back to Holland because my whole family lives there,” Koenen said. “I don’t have any family in America so to go back is always a pleasure, even if it’s business.”
Tennis isn’t quite business, but it’s almost as serious for the Koenen family. Koenen’s grandparents met through tennis in the Netherlands; her older sister, Annemijn, is a college tennis player at Missouri after transferring from Arkansas, and her younger brother, Jasper, is an up-and-comer at St. Charles East.
“This is really how my family connects with each other because it runs so deep in my family,” Koenen said.
Koenen’s senior season capped a four-year North Stars career in which she qualified for the IHSA state tournament all four years, twice in doubles, twice in singles. As North’s No. 1 singles player this season, she seized conference and sectional championships.
Making use of a big kick-serve and highly effective backhand slice, Koenen established herself as the area’s most dominant player.
“That slice gets her a lot of points because girls can’t really do much with it,” North coach Eve Tubman said. “Some girls can’t really run it down at all but the girls who can can’t really hit an aggressive shot off of it – it’s just getting it back in play.”
Koenen finished her senior season 22-6. Strangely enough, half of those six losses came to the same player – Kristy Dodge of Barrington. One of the losses to Dodge came at the state tournament, where Koenen went 3-2 before being ousted on the second day of competition.
Koenen remains undecided on a college but is likely to land at a Division I program, like her big sister. Her singles and doubles comfort level should enhance her options, said Jeff Neuman, her longtime instructor and head tennis pro at Rush-Copley Healthplex.
“She’s certainly given herself a great opportunity to be a big part of someone’s program, walking in the door,” Neuman said.
At North, Koenen feels like a much different player – and person – walking out than walking in. Koenen said she was “more quiet and silly” as a freshman, but this year took her team captain role to heart, and occasionally surprised herself with how outspoken she became during practice.
Tubman lauded Koenen’s leadership role, ranging from instructing less seasoned teammates to taking the lead on a team fundraiser, and said Koenen “doesn’t hesitate to share her opinion about anything.”
“I did feel myself changing throughout the years,” Koenen said. “I felt myself being as dedicated as I could be to this team and to the players.”
About the only thing that saps Koenen’s competitive juices is when she’s sparring with Annemijn, her former doubles partner.
“I think the one time we were supposed to play each other I forfeited, actually,” Koenen said. “Whenever we play each other, it’s never about who wins, it’s about both of us getting better. There are so many competitive people out there we can play, if we play each other, that’s just too close to home, I think.”
Whether she’s in the U.S. or overseas, for Koenen, home is where the tennis racquets are.