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Druley: Koenens make lots of racquet in giving back

In a bid to boost an interest in tennis in St. Charles, the Koenen family, including St. Charles North alumna Liselot (right) donated much of its racquet collection to the physical education programs at St. North and St. Charles East. Here, North girls coach Eve Tubman accepts a donation.
In a bid to boost an interest in tennis in St. Charles, the Koenen family, including St. Charles North alumna Liselot (right) donated much of its racquet collection to the physical education programs at St. North and St. Charles East. Here, North girls coach Eve Tubman accepts a donation.

Former St. Charles North girls tennis standout Liselot Koenen can re-string and re-grip a racquet in about the time it takes to watch a commercial-free episode of “Downton Abbey.”

Koenen knows this because she spent a jolly good share of her recent winter break from Georgetown doing those things simultaneously, 40 minutes at a time.

Earlier this month, the Koenen family – with some help from their friends, the Bowmans – donated 41 used racquets to the physical education programs at North and St. Charles East. Koenen’s siblings – North and Missouri alumna Annemijn and Michigan State-bound Jasper, an East senior – had hands not only on the racquets, but on the prospect of paying it forward.

“I mean, we wouldn’t be collegiate tennis players, all three of us, if it wasn’t for the programs at North and East,” Liselot Koenen said. “So I just hope that these tennis racquets can give other people some hope in also trying to pursue a higher degree of tennis, so that we can build a program and hopefully one day find more good players coming out of St. Charles and the Fox Valley area.”

The Koenens will leave that company this summer as their parents relocate the family home to Louisiana. They rounded up the racquets while cleaning and collaborated with the Bowman family, who lent Liselot Koenen their racquet stringer and also donated equipment that once belonged to former Saints stars Erin and Justin.

Most of the racquets are Wilsons – the preferred Koenen brand – with many just one or two years old.

As the Koenens tell it, they’re a large upgrade over the beginner’s racquets being used during District 303 high school physical education matches.

“It’s kind of like playing basketball with a smaller-size basketball,” Liselot Koenen said. “You’re not going to get the same skills from that.”

The Koenens’ father was a highly regarded junior tennis player in his native Holland, and their mother also is active in the sport.

Their children have happily continued the tradition, and might have come forth with a horde of smaller racquets years ago. Each Koenen sibling began playing tennis at a young age, but transitioned to a full-size racquet around age 10.

“Over the course of a year or two, the racquet can have a couple scratches here and there on it and the bumper guard might be a little bit loose, but if you re-string it and we re-grip it, it definitely looks really new,” Jasper Koenen said.

As Jasper Koenen notes, both St. Charles schools traditionally enjoy numbers advantages on other high school programs, having enough depth to field two JV teams, not just one.

One ideal effect of the donation would be finding a few would-be gym class heroes who discover a long-term passion for the sport.

North received 21 racquets to East’s 20 in part because it was Liselot Koenen doing the re-stringing and re-gripping.

“Revenge” was a secondary viewing favorite during those afternoons, perhaps the only hostile thing about the endeavor.

Keep on rolling: “No one’s sure how it’s really going to go,” was St. Charles North boys bowling coach Jeff Fett’s assessment of the sport’s new postseason format before it debuted last week.

After the first bowling regionals produced North and St. Charles East as team qualifiers to Saturday’s Rockford Boylan Sectional, consider it a case of so far, so good.

The IHSA added a regional component before sectionals in part to accommodate bowling’s growth beyond the northwest corridor of the state. The regionals also spread the concentration of the traditional power teams, ideally allowing more of them to advance to the state tournament.

Each of the top six teams from the remaining four sectionals will advance to the Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 state meet at downstate St. Clair Bowl in O’Fallon. The top seven individuals from nonqualifying teams also will move on; at the Boylan Sectional, that pool includes Geneva’s Evan Schmidt and Jason Soto.

Girls regionals are set for Feb. 8, with Geneva, Kaneland and both St. Charles schools converging on Aurora’s Parkside Lanes for the Metea Valley Regional.

Jumping at their chance: While Batavia already is brimming with confidence about next girls gymnastics season, a program teeming with juniors and underclassmen doesn’t consider the rest of 2014 a wash.

Coach Taryn Boyce and the Bulldogs, in one sense, have a slight leg up on the rest of the field as next week’s Upstate Eight Conference meet at Neuqua Valley nears. Batavia was slated to compete on the same apparatuses at Neuqua Valley in a dual meet Thursday night.

“Obviously, Taryn is going to push us to get all of the skills that she wants us to have,” Bulldogs junior Courtney Glassman said, “and we’re just going to work our butts off in the gym and just try and get as much as we can get done.”

Walgren a Wolf: Aurora Christian senior safety/wide receiver Brandon Walgren has committed to play football at NCAA Division II Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D., former Eagles coach Don Beebe confirmed.

Beebe, who stepped down as head coach after last season but will stay on as offensive coordinator, said in December that Walgren “arguably could be our MVP on offense and defense.”

Northern State is nicknamed the Wolves and finished 4-7 last season. Walgren becomes the second Eagle to recently commit to a South Dakota school after Noah Roberts recently chose the University of South Dakota.

Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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