BATAVIA – Batavia girls tennis coach Brad Nelson invited Hannah Potter, then an eighth grader, to the IHSA Girls Tennis State Tournament to give the promising prospect a sneak peek of what her career could hold.
Four years later, what a career it’s been. Potter, a doubles entrant in this year’s state field along with fellow senior Kaitlin Mills, prepares for her final matches as a Bulldog at this year’s state tournament having recently become the program’s all-time wins leader.
Potter broke the wins mark of former Batavia standout Alexa Schofield when she and Mills won their opening round match at the West Aurora Sectional on Friday, giving Potter 110 career wins. The tandem went on to seize the sectional doubles title, and Potter’s wins total stands at 113 entering the start of the three-day state tournament today across the northwest suburbs.
Fittingly enough, Schofield was one of the players who was competing at the state tournament the year Potter attended as a young spectator.
“I knew I had enough matches to do it so I was actually kind of getting nervous, like ‘What if I blew it?’ ” Potter said. “... I was still trying to focus on sectionals and everything else, a win is a win, but it definitely was in the back of my mind.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking of since I knew it existed. It was really good to finally get it done and I’m really glad I get to keep adding on to it because we still have lots of matches left.”
That’s the hope, at least. Potter and Mills, who received a 17-32 seed in the state doubles draw, are in their first year as a tandem after Potter (61 career doubles wins, 52 singles wins) spent much of her junior season playing singles, eventually earning her first state berth. The team has sizzled from the start en route to a 32-6 record and conference and sectional titles.
“Every one of their six losses was to a state qualifying team and every one of their losses was a close loss,” Nelson said.
Mills played No. 1 doubles last year with Jenny Mizikar, who formed an elite No. 2 doubles tandem this year with freshman Amelia Cogan. Mizikar and Cogan (35-2) provided the opposition in the sectional championship match Saturday.
Mills – No. 2 on the program’s all-time doubles wins list – has a more consistent serve than Potter, whose struggles at the service line has been about the only source of consternation this season.
“Somewhere, I have no idea what happened, but I feel like my whole serve almost fell apart,” Potter said. “Everything was going either in the net or long, and it was frustrating me, so then it just got worse. But a couple weeks ago I started working on it more and I kind of figured out how to get it back.”
Mills and Potter, team captains, are especially elated that both Batavia doubles and singles entries qualified for the state tournament.
Nelson said sophomore singles players Miranda Grizaffi and Liza Fruendt have the potential to add to the program’s victory haul this week.
“Their athleticism wins matches,” Nelson said, noting that both are basketball players. “They beat some girls who maybe are more skilled, have more formal training than they do, but because of their athleticism and the way they’ve been able to pick up the game quickly, they’ve been able to knock off some highly regarded people.”
Of all the area doubles qualifiers, Potter and Mills are the only ones who commanded a seed. Both plan to play college tennis; Potter is leaning toward Winona State (Minn.), while Mills is intrigued by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (N.Y.).
Potter didn’t win a match at the state tournament in her first appearance a year ago. Making amends this year – with Mills’ help – could add even more luster to her decorated career.
“Right now I kind of think I have that out of my way,” Potter said of last year’s winless trip to state. “So now I’m ready to get there and help [Mills] get right to it and start off winning right away because I know what it’s like.”
Area qualifiers for IHSA state tournament
Brittany Plaszewski, St. Charles North, Jr. (17-32 seed)
Kirby Einck, Geneva, Fr.
Liza Fruendt, Batavia, So.
Miranda Grizaffi, Batavia, So.
Lexi Welton, Wheaton Academy, So.
Hannah Potter (Sr.)-Kaitlin Mills (Sr.), Batavia (17-32 seed)
Jennifer Mizikar (So.)-Amelia Cogan (Fr.), Batavia
Amelia Napiorkowski (Sr.)-Madi Jurcenko (Fr.), Kaneland
Ashley Randazzo (Jr.)-Kate Lesswing (Sr.), St. Charles North